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Now What?

By Dave Sellers

The Mad River Valley has been the birthing room for an enormous amount of creativity and commitment in the arena of alternative energy, renewable sources of power and inventive designs for the future. Vermont Castings and the Vermont Iron Stove Works were founded in Warren. Northern Power, Controlled Energy, the initial development of expandable foam structures, earth sheltered buildings (the Warren Fire Station was the first underground commercial building in Vermont), solar collectors and hydro plants are a small list of the activities that The Valley has sprouted and is still sprouting.

No wonder the public forum last week was standing room only. Vermont Yankee is too old to be safe (that comes from the data presented). There is swindle brewing in the money necessary to decommission (that was obvious from the discussion). It was brought out that the decommissioning doesn't leave the site as a natural area the way it was found. It will still be a nuke site left for all time with the walls and foundations still there. Only the radioactive parts will be removed leaving scraps of who knows what left for us to live with. 

The Big Picture has once again proved that Claudia Becker and Eugene Jarecki hit a bull's eye. The concept of a public gathering place, entertainment palace, fine dining, casual gathering and center for critical issues fits The Valley perfectly.  In fact, it stands as a model for community centers throughout Vermont.

But, the issue that was discussed was clouded with the decommissioning scandal. When you separate that (and Vermont will have the smartest people on our side to protect us from getting shafted by the nuke corporations) from the issue of extending the license 20 years, you can drill down to the critical questions and the final and most important one remains. Can we make up for the loss of electricity by 2012 when it gets shut down?

The Mad River Valley would no doubt say yes, and the effort to adapt our life styles to meet that would be an exciting and dynamic challenge. But sitting in a meeting with lawyers in Middlebury I asked what they thought about shutting down Vermont Yankee. The response was shocking; they said, "No way. Vermont couldn't afford to reduce our electric source. It would kill the state."

State Representative Adam Greshin pointed out that it would be way into the fall before the question of extending the license is settled. The lobbyists will obscure the issue, the advertising and commercials will spin and confuse the issue and the leaders of our state may cave. 

This issue is too critical to leave alone. We live in unusual times; we have a time bomb central to our state that is slowly collapsing. It is not protectable from violence. And violence is unheard of in Vermont. As it was in NYC. In the simplest of terms Vermont Yankee is so crude. It is an atomic bomb in a swimming pool that gives off steam that turns generators; a wind turbine that lasts for years untended and is extremely sophisticated in engineering metallurgy, airflow, low temperature physics, and dynamics. And the source of power, the wind, is inexhaustible. 

And, as we found at the forum from Laurence Mott, the costs, permitting and replacement bonds for wind power and renewables is excessive and unfairly slanted for nuke plants. This is wrong.

My opinion? Vermont would be best served to hold a statewide referendum to poll by vote for all the citizens of Vermont to determine if the Yankee nuclear plant should be renewed or removed. This is too serious to let it slide into political backrooms. We, the people, need to voice our opinion and that should carry the day.

Sellers lives in Warren.

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