The Commons
Photo 1

DigitalGlobe

Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant facility, photographed March 13 in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan with deadly force. The Mark I nuclear reactor is the same design as Entergy Nuclear’s Vermont Yankee reactor in Vernon.

Voices / Viewpoint

‘Who could’ve seen this coming? Plenty of us.’

Editor’s note: In the aftermath of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval last week of Entergy Nuclear’s application to extend its license to operate Vermont Yankee for another 20 years — a decision announced just one day before the devastating earthquakes, tsunami, and consequent nuclear catastrophe hit Japan — we invited some of the area’s nuclear critics to comment on the confluence of the events. As always, we welcome your responses and all points of view on these pages, a point we often underscore when we get anywhere near the issue of VY and its fate.

Photo 2

DigitalGlobe

Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant facility, photographed March 13 in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan with deadly force. The Mark I nuclear reactor is the same design as Entergy Nuclear’s Vermont Yankee reactor in Vernon.

Originally published in The Commons issue #92 (Wednesday, March 16, 2011).


Leslie Staudinger

It is very easy to put myself in the shoes of a mother in Japan right now. I live four miles from a nuclear power plant that is a 40-year-old General Electric boiling-water reactor, like the ones melting down in Japan.

I imagine being told to evacuate my family (three children and two pets), along with 140,000 other people, into a homeland that is already a disaster from an earthquake and a tsunami. I imagine myself knowing I am leading them into a radiation zone. I imagine not being able to smell it, see it, feel it.

I imagine myself thinking that things must be really bad if they are evacuating us into this disaster zone. They’ve never evacuated us before.

I imagine myself doing so based on the word of my government and the corporation that owns the plant, both of which have lied to me about nuclear power in the past.

The BBC reports that four executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Japanese firm that owns the reactor, were forced to resign after lying in 2000, and twice since more lies have been documented.

Back in Vermont, Entergy has a similar history, and executives were let go.

In 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission didn’t have people evacuate until two days after the partial meltdown of the reactor core at Three Mile Island, and it took three months before they admitted there even was a meltdown.

They deny anyone has ever been harmed by Three Mile Island. Tell that to my sick relatives in the documented cancer cluster down there.

On Thursday, as I sat in the offices of the New England Coalition, I listened live to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s announcement that it had concluded that Vermont Yankee is safe enough to receive its approval to operate for another 20 years.

I was calm and proud.

The coalition had fought relicensing for six years and forced the NRC (and Entergy, and Vermont) to look at metal fatigue, high-energy pipe thinning, submerged electrical cables, and other safety issues. Our intervention made the plant a little less dangerous.

I felt relief when, in his remarks, Chairman Gregory Jaczko stated clearly that there are other regulatory bodies that Entergy needs approvals from.

I felt relief when he would not speculate on what would happen if the plant’s ability to operate went to the courts.

All the NRC did was say that the plant was “safe.”

Do I agree? Running at 120 percent of what it was designed to do, 40 years old, in need of a lot of expensive pieces and parts, leaking tritium and who knows what, from where to where?

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