Anti-nuclear advocates have long complained that the NRC is too cozy with the industry it regulates. The commission continues to issue assurances that there are no significant health threats, and that there is no heightened risk of an accident.
But in light of the AP’s reports, can these assurances be believed?
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As Entergy Nuclear made abundantly clear in federal court last week, the state of Vermont is prohibited from using safety concerns as a pretext for regulating nuclear power. That is why it is seeking a federal injunction to keep Vermont Yankee open past 2012, even though it has not been granted a Certificate of Public Good by the Vermont Public Service Board.
And that did not happen mainly because the state as a whole does not trust Entergy Nuclear to continue to run Vermont Yankee for another two decades in a way that would benefit Vermonters.
The list of safety mishaps over the past five years was long enough for Vermonters to start doubting Entergy’s assurances that Vermont Yankee was — in the words of their ad campaign — “safe, clean, and reliable.” Last year’s tritium leaks at the plant — leaks that came from underground pipes that plant officials had said didn’t exist — was the clincher. The 26-4 vote by the Vermont Senate last February was a reflection of public sentiment that Entergy can’t be trusted.
Despite their employees’ protests to the contrary, the NRC appears to compromise public safety by giving the benefit of the doubt to the corporations that own these reactors. And Entergy’s actions are proof that giving corporations the benefit of the doubt on matters of public safety is not a good idea.
Considering the United States gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, there is enormous pressure to keep reactors running.
But how long can aging reactors keep running before a catastrophe occurs?
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