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By Connie Coleman
This weekend I read in the paper about Vermont Yankee's latest nuclear plant radioactive leak. This time it was caused by a worn threaded plug that was part of the reactor water cleanup system, the system used to purify reactor coolant removing radioactivity.
Yes, the leak was small, but it comes on top of another leak discovered
in early January. Raymond Shadis, senior technical advisor for the New
England Coalition, a nuclear watchdog group, attributed the recent
leaks to aging of the plant.
If you've been following this, you may recall earlier failures: the critical valve malfunctions that resulted in an emergency shutdown in 2007; the problems with the "automatic" backup system during that shutdown; and the 2007 alarming photograph of the cooling tower collapse with coolant pouring forth. There have been other failures and defects too numerous to mention and security violations cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February 2008.
Vermont Yankee was designed for use through 2012. The plant's corporate owner Entergy is lobbying hard to relicense the plant for an additional 20 years. Entergy is a limited liability corporation (LLC) and could potentially walk away from Vermont in the event of an accident.
If Entergy were to file for bankruptcy, taxpayers would be forced to foot the bill for cleanup of nuclear waste. If this seems far-fetched, keep in mind that a related company, Entergy New Orleans, did this after Hurricane Katrina. Entergy New Orleans filed for bankruptcy resulting in taxpayers picking up a $200 million tab.
Next year the Legislature will vote yea or nay on extending the life of our aging Vermont Yankee plant. The good news is that this year the House and Senate are moving forward with legislation that will promote the development of clean, renewable energy sources in the state. It is possible to replace Vermont Yankee with non-polluting local energy along with expanded efficiency and conservation programs. What we need now is strong leadership to make it happen.
You don't need to be against nuclear power to recognize that this aging plant with its outdated design currently running at 120 percent of its designed capacity is not in the best interests of Vermonters. Let's work together with our legislators to retire Vermont Yankee.
Colman lives in Warren.