VY heats river, kills fish

BRATTLEBORO — With recordbreaking drought and heat waves this summer, the relationship between nuclear power and water has become crystal clear.

Nuclear power plants use massive amount of water for cooling. Nuclear reactors in the U.S., including Vermont Yankee, were forced to reduce power or shut down this July because the river water was too hot going into the reactors to cool them sufficiently.

And if the water is too hot going in, it's going to be hot coming out.

Fifty to 65 percent of energy generated by nuclear reactors is waste heat. If it is not converted into electricity, something has to be done with the wasted energy.

Every day, Vermont Yankee dumps more than 500 million gallons of heated water back into the river. The thermal plume stretches 55 miles downstream, from Vernon to Holyoke. “Thermal pollution” describes this waste heat.

Sometimes, the water at discharge is as high as 105 degrees. In nature, when the water changes by as little as 1 or 2 degrees, it shocks aquatic life.

Yes, we are boiling our fish. According to the Connecticut River Watershed Council, “American shad have declined by 99 percent since the 1990s in the Vernon Pool, the location of Entergy's discharge.”

There is no reason for Entergy to continue to pollute the river. A solution already exists. A closed-loop system, using cooling towers, enables reactors to avoid thermal pollution. Yankee already uses its cooling towers when the river is too low or the temperature is too high, but Entergy says it is too expensive to use cooling towers all the time.

Vermont Yankee was given a permit to bypass its cooling towers by Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). That permit expired in 2006, and its renewal is in limbo at ANR.

We cannot sit silently while Entergy puts profits over the life of our river. On Saturday, Sept. 8, the SAGE Alliance will hold a land and water demonstration, “Our River Runs Through It.”

We invite the public to join us on the Fort Hill Rail Trail in Hinsdale, N.H. or in canoes, kayaks, and other watercraft on the river.

David Deen, steward of the Connecticut River Watershed Council; Christian Parenti, contributing editor of The Nation, and Deb Katz, director of the Citizens Awareness Network, will speak.

We'll launch between 11 a.m. and noon from the Prospect Street Boat Launch, off of Route 119 in Hinsdale, and hold the rally at 1 p.m. The event details are at http://sagealliance.net/actions/river-9-8-12.

The Connecticut River is a precious resource to homes, businesses, recreation, and farms for hundreds of miles around Vermont Yankee. The fact that we already live with 530 of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel sitting on the banks of the river is an outrageous risk. Heating the river and killing its fish is an avoidable outrage.

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