Radioactive Emissions from Vermont Yankee Should Scare Us All!
by Hattie Nestel
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  Radioactivity is not discernible through our usual senses of taste, hearing, sight, smell, or touch. The Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, five miles from Massachusetts and New Hampshire borders in southern Vermont endangers all three states. Populations in all three states are vulnerable to the radioactive emissions generated by Vermont Yankee and the radioactive on-site waste.

  "Each day, a nuclear reactor releases more than 100 chemicals into the air," states Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of the Radiation and Public Health Project. "These chemicals, which are created only in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors, are radioactive and cause cancer by damaging cells. After entering the body through breathing and food, each chemical affects the body in a different way. Iodine 131 attacks the thyroid gland, strontium 90 seeks out bone and cesium 137 disperses throughout soft tissues. The fetus and infant with undeveloped immune systems and rapidly dividing cells are most affected."

  Hearings were held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, last week in Brattleboro, at which everyone was assured, Vermont Yankee is so safe that it should be relicensed for another twenty to forty years.

  What will become of the waste? Vermont Yankee's spent fuel pool is dangerously overcrowded and at seventy feet in the air under a simple tin roof hardly safe. Exposure to spent fuel means instant death. The Yucca Mountain Federal repository has been deemed geologically unstable and despite costing over $9 billion dollars over the past twenty years is now being scrapped as a possible radioactive waste repository.

  The NRC also tells us not to worry. Our insurance companies disagree and will not cover our homes or businesses for any damage or losses as a result of a nuclear accident. If an accident should occur, it is estimated that as many as 25,000 square miles could be rendered uninhabitable. Evacuation plans only apply to a ten mile area, and at that are inadequate and flawed. Most of us have no sirens in our communities, no potassium iodide pills and no plan in place.

  Each day Vermont Yankee takes in 20,000 gallons per minute from the Connecticut River. Only 5,000 gallons return to the river. If global warming reduces the flow of water in the Connecticut River, Vermont Yankee cannot cool its hot reactor core. Should that not give us pause?

  Radioactive elements from a nuclear reactor enter water of adjoining rivers or lakes or are released into the air. Airborne releases can land in agricultural fields hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their source.

  Unwitting farmers or their customers have little knowledge that foods or livestock are grown or graze on contaminated soil. Ingesting contaminated crops or animal products can cause leukemia, thyroid diseases, cancers, heart disease, infertility, Down Syndrome, spontaneous abortions, immune deficiency diseases, and congenital birth defects. These genetic mutations will be passed on to succeeding generations. We need comprehensive health surveys undertaken in reactor communities so we can know the impacts that radioactive releases are subjecting us to.

  Rosalie Bertell, a cancer research scientist, has spent much of her life studying low-level radiation including ten years writing a comprehensive book entitled, No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth. She states that there is a general nuclear illiteracy in the U.S., " . . . only scientists are fully aware of the subtle cumulative nature of damage from low-level radiation."

  In the 2005 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation report, the National Academy of Sciences state that there is no safe level of exposure to radiation. However, the public is kept in the dark about ongoing radioactive emissions, the dangers they pose, and the health consequences suffered by exposed populations. Federal and local governing agencies subsidize and protect corporate interests rather than public health and safe sustainable energy options.

  At stake are another twenty to forty years of relicensing for both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim. Forty-seven have already applied and received this extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

  Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has intervened in the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions relicensing proceedings for Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vermont and the Pilgrim, in Plymouth, Ma. She has maintained that Entergy, owner of both reactors do an environmental assessment that will include an analysis of the vulnerability of the fuel pool to accidents as well as attacks. We need to thank AG Coakley and encourage her to appeal any rejection of her petition by the NRC to the 1st Circuit Appellate court. A similar case in the 9th Circuit court won!

  Resources: Nuclear Power is Not the Answer by Helen Caldicott, 2006 Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change by Brice Smith, 2006 (publ. IEER)

  Join Citizens Awareness Network


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