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Voices / Letters from readers

Lots of value remains in VY’s used fuel supply

Opponents of Vermont Yankee say there is no solution to the used fuel problem.

What is true is that there is not a political solution (yet) to the used fuel problem in this country. Other countries have political solutions, having chosen one of several technical solutions. Nuclear opponents don’t want a solution. Their tactic is to oppose and stall everything that moves the progress of nuclear power forward.

They have the misguided belief that if they somehow manage to get it tied in knots, it will wither away or collapse. Why else would they, who claim to be greatly concerned about safety, intervene in the Public Service Board proceedings for a third backup diesel generator at the plant?

The fact is that 90 percent of the used fuel is reusable and will be very valuable. The generation of reactors to which VY belongs was only meant to establish the commercial market, not to wring every watt out of the fuel, just as the DC-3, which went into service in 1936 and is still flying, really made the market for air travel.

Prototypes of reactor designs that use all the fuel were built and tested long ago. China is vigorously pursuing a prototype we built in the 1960s, to the tune of $350 million.

As I testified this May to the Vermont House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, when asked if the used fuel at Vermont Yankee would be there in 300 years: It won’t. It will have been used in one of the new reactor designs. If not used here, it will have been sold to China or to someone else.

The used fuel at Vermont Yankee, in its solid form, welded in the original rods, then welded in storage cans, then placed in concrete shield-chimneys, can safely remain where it is, or elsewhere, until its value rises.

Howard Shaffer
Enfield, N.H.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #210 (Wednesday, July 3, 2013).

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