Letter: NorthStar project is viable and critical

Editor of the Reformer:

Kevin Kamps' warning about supposedly "unrealistic and potentially misplaced" hopes to decommission Vermont Yankee makes me wonder if he has an alternative in mind to the proposed safe and prompt site decommissioning ("Vermont Yankee: Expert says faster reuse unrealistic amid national waste dilemma," May 5).

While Kamps, Deb Katz and other self-proclaimed experts may wring their hands over the "economic injustice" and alleged environmental dangers of locating an interim spent fuel repository in southwest Texas, the 2015 per-capita income in Andrews County, Texas, the partner site for Vermont Yankee low-level radiation, was $52,319. This jurisdiction ranks among the highest in per capita income in that very wealthy state, thanks in part to the mining of potential fuel sources (oil and gas). Southwest Texas is clearly unconcerned about meddling from afar as it diversifies its energy operations. Think how we would respond if professed environmental activists from Texas decided we impoverished Vermonters were being forced to enslave and rob maple trees by sucking out their sap every spring.

Interestingly, the repository proposal was recently withdrawn: not from political pressure or unfounded "justice" issues, but because the company was no longer sure the project made financial sense without additional certainty. Therein lies a prudent warning for Vermont.

As proposed, the Vermont Yankee project makes financial sense for NorthStar, environmental sense for the regional biosphere, and economic sense for Windham County and Vermont. As proposed, the job can be finished cleanly, safely and on budget in as few as nine years. It will reinvigorate the county and state economy. Vermont should be judicious but not fearful. Vermont Yankee is closed, the reactor so feared by its detractors cold and silent after 40-plus safe years of emissions-free operations.

The last step, decommissioning and restoration, applies safe, proven technology successfully utilized at plants across New England. Unfounded claims that the site is "massively contaminated" are without basis and nothing short of fear mongering. The Site Assessment Study issued in 2014 provides Radiological and Non-Radiological Historical Site Assessments documenting actual events at the site and how they were addressed. The "experts" are those employees who actually worked at the site and witnessed the events thus providing accuracy to the scope of work needed to decommission Yankee.

Vermont enjoys an even more favorable position than other New England states, because our interstate compact with Texas gives us priority access to low-level waste disposal and potentially storage. However, if anti-nuclear "experts" have their way, both timeline and budget will bloat into unviability. Likewise, the State of Vermont must not be allowed to run an unlimited legal tab fighting the Vermont Yankee project, and then send the bill to NorthStar.

Of course, everyone must be heard. Every relevant proposal and concern about safety, environment and economic impact deserves due diligence. I only hope the PSB wisely separates the wheat from the chaff so that a half-century from now, our grandchildren aren't asking why the heck we let a clean, safe prosperous future slip away, in favor of a concrete pad watched by a few security guards.

Bob Leach,

Brattleboro, May16


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