Rep. Welch 'intransigent and wrong-headed' on nuclear-waste issue

BRATTLEBORO — In many ways, aside from impeachment and what comes out of garbage mouth (President Trump), including his many irrational actions, Washington actions are distant from our lives.

And what happens in Congressional committees, such as the Congressional Budget Committee (CBC), is even further hidden from public view.

But these votes do impact us, particularly in what happens at Vermont Yankee.

Vermont Yankee is being taken apart, leaving no reactor building and over-50-ft.-tall concrete containers or casks containing extremely radioactive nuclear fuel and reactor components. But then what?

As a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch well represents Vermonters, our politics and needs. But on one issue, he is intransigent and wrong-headed.

In a subcommittee of the CBC, he continues to support HR 3053, which would open Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and storage sites in Texas and New Mexico to radioactive waste.

He and all of us would like to move the Vermont Yankee storage casks out of Vermont. His view is that the Department of Energy (DOE) failed to construct the Yucca Mountain waste repository that was authorized by Congress in 1987, and it's time to get it done. He is following the lobbying of the nuclear industry and insists HR 3053 can force the opening of Yucca Mountain.

The industry is wrong, and Congressman Welch is wrong.

In a meeting with his staff last year, I said HR 3053 needs to include consent approval and transportation safety protections. That is, the legislation must allow consent by the respective governors and legislatures of Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico. How would we like it if the situation were reversed and Congress forced waste on Vermont without the approval of our governor or the Legislature? A waste repository would never happen without state consent.

Any waste bill also needs to include transportation-safety protections. Casks are not designed to withstand serious accidents, such as a bridge collapse, or long-duration fire. In fact, full-scale casks are not physically tested at all, just by computer simulation.

Welch represents our state well, but on the issue of Vermont Yankee waste, he needs to give the matter greater thought and not just follow the lobbying of the nuclear industry.

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