Commentary regarding Governor Douglas's remarks
by Hattie Nestel
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  I was quite disturbed after reading the Rutland Herald story of March 23, 2007, regarding Governor Douglas's remarks about radioactive waste at Vermont Yankee.

  When a questioner said she was concerned about the production of nuclear waste at Vermont Yankee, the paper reports that Governor Douglas answered the woman's concerns by responding about the stabilization of rates due, in part, to Vermont Yankee. This completely sidestepped the issue. He then went on to state "…Whether the decision (to renew Vermont Yankee's license) is 'yes' or 'no', we will have a waste disposal problem," he said. "In the long term, the federal government will have responsibility for nuclear waste…You have to assume they're going to fulfill that responsibility."

  In fact, the federal government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, promising to remove all high level waste from every reactor in the country by 1998. Yet, not one ounce of waste has been removed. Three nuclear companies have sued and won a total of $143 million for failure to remove that waste as promised. (AP/Boston Globe, October 4, 2006). I don't see how that leads us to assume the government will fulfill its responsibility.

  There is no place to send the high level waste that has been accumulating at Vermont Yankee for the past 35 years. Yucca Mountain, the federal repository that was supposed to take the waste has been a dismal failure. After twenty years of digging and an expenditure of $9 billion taxpayer dollars, any hopes for the Yucca Mountain repository to be able to store radioactive waste have collapsed. No country in the world has such a repository. It certainly boggles the mind to imagine safely storing and guarding high level radioactive waste for the next 500,000 years. (see Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer, 2006).

  The Vermont Attorney General, William Sorrel has joined with Massachusetts and seven other states over concerns about the vulnerability of the high level spent fuel pool at Vermont Yankee. At issue is the highly-radioactive spent fuel in a deep water pool on the fifth floor of the reactor building.

  Peter Shumlin, president pro tempore of the state Senate said legislators were "astounded" to learn that the NRC was not considering the issue of storage of high-level radioactive waste when making a decision about extending Vermont Yankee's license. His position is that there must be in Independent Safety Assessment and an answer as to the problem, growing larger every day that Vermont Yankee operates, about what to do with the spent fuel. He's advocating the entire state now take on the responsibility of the spent fuel and that storage should start in the state's most populous areas. (Rutland Herald 3/20/07)

  I think the woman who raised concerns about the waste at Vermont Yankee deserved a better answer from Governor Douglas. The spent fuel dangers are enormous. The entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation, (including Senators), have issued an appeal to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stating their concerns about the vulnerability of the "high-density spent fuel storage pools to serious accidents caused by a wide range of factors including natural phenomena, operator error, equipment failure, and terrorist attacks. "(March 16, 2007)

  This is a serious issue and the people deserve to be fully informed about the dangers Vermont Yankee poses to the region. To consider a twenty-year license extension for Vermont Yankee means Vermont will have to deal with that waste, in state, for over 12,000 human generations. Is this the legacy we want to bequeath to our descendents?


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