Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Voices / Letters from readers

Decommissioning nuclear power plants still demands public scrutiny

One of the common misconceptions about nuclear power plants is that once they are “shut down,” the work in ensuring safer conditions on the site is over. In fact, that is not true.

The decommissioning process — now in progress at Vermont Yankee — is often the most dangerous time in the life cycle of a plant, as the staff overseeing operations has been drastically reduced.

The terms of the decommissioning are critical in ensuring the safest outcome.

Public officials as well as the New England Coalition have expressed concerns that the company intending to buy the old nuclear plant, NorthStar, has not provided adequate assurance that it has the funds to own the plant and see the decommissioning process through properly.

We have witnessed recently the importance of storing radioactive materials safely in Hanford, Wash., where a 20-foot section of a tunnel housing contaminated radioactive waste collapsed and hundreds of workers were ordered to “take cover” at the complex where waste from the production of nuclear weapons has been stored.

An August 2015 report by Vanderbilt University’s civil and environmental engineering department had warned about the safety of the tunnels and the dangerous and contaminated waste stored there. The Union of Concerned Scientists had warned that collapse of the tunnels could lead to serious radiological release.

Nuclear waste is hazardous for tens of thousands of years. The site for storing it at Vermont Yankee is located on the river over an aquifer that provides water for people downstream.

The NEC is seeking status to intervene in the process, not only to try to ensure a safer decommissioning outcome but to protect the land and the water.

Ameila Shea
Wilton, NH

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.


We are currently reconfiguring our comments software. Please check back if you’d like to read or leave comments on this story. —The editors

Originally published in The Commons issue #417 (Wednesday, July 19, 2017).


The New England Coalition is a non profit and if you would like to support their work they can be reached at their office in Brattleboro or at

Related stories

More by Ameila Shea