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Voices / Letters from readers

Pressure Congress to get nuclear waste out of Vermont

It appears that some who are opposed to Vermont Yankee are in agreement that they do not want spent nuclear fuel stored alongside the Connecticut River, or anywhere else in Vermont. The nuclear industry doesn’t want Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel stored there either, nor does it want any other nuclear plant to store their own spent fuel on site.

Vermont Yankee’s spent nuclear fuel is safely stored in the spent fuel pool or in dry-cask storage. Although this is safe, it is a temporary solution.

The best method for storing spent nuclear fuel is for the federal government to transport all of it to a safe, centralized storage facility. In fact, the federal government passed legislation in the 1980s that ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to build a disposal facility and begin removing spent fuel from Vermont Yankee in 1998. It never happened.

Under the same law, electric ratepayers in the U.S. have been paying 0.1 cent per kilowatt of electricity from nuclear plants — more than $30 billion to date — into a fund designed to pay for a national nuclear waste storage facility.

Over the past 25 years, $5 billion was spent to construct and test a waste storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but when Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, became Senate majority leader, that project was abandoned.

In short, the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to safely dispose of the waste from the 104 reactors in the U.S., including Vermont Yankee.

If local people, both VY supporters and opponents, sincerely want to help get nuclear waste out of Vermont, they should focus their attention where it might do some good — on Vermont’s congressional delegation.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, along with Representative Peter Welch — not Vermont Yankee — have the power to get Congress to live up to its responsibilities and solve the spent-fuel problem.

Harriet Green
Athol, Mass.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #147 (Wednesday, April 11, 2012).

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