Demolition debris trucked through Windham County

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(Host) The Yankee nuclear power plant in Rowe, Massachusetts is nearing the end of a 10-year decommissioning, the first in the country for a commercial plant. Yankee Rowe is only a mile or so from Vermont, and some of the demolition debris is being trucked through Windham County.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) The Whitingham Select Board met Thursday night with Rowe Yankee plant to air concerns about low level radioactive debris moving through town. The plant, which shut down permanently in 1992, is in a rural area near the Whitingham town line.

Lately between 15 and 20 truckloads of debris, mostly from demolished buildings, are moving over town roads to Route 100. From there they travel Route 9 through West Brattleboro. Yankee spokes person Kelley Smith says some of the debris contains asbestos and is being trucked to southern New Hampshire.

(Smith) “Some of the material from the plant is painted with PCB containing paint. And that material may also contain extremely low levels of radioactivity. And there is a facility in Utah that accepts that material and that material goes to the rail siding in Palmer, Massachusetts.”

(Keese) Smith says that materials headed towards Utah travel from Route 9 on Interstate 91. Smith says the levels are so low that federal transportation rules don’t even require the trucks to be marked.

Whitingham Select Board Chairman Allan Twitchell says it’s not the radioactivity but the impact of the traffic on local roads that worries his town.

(Twitchell) “Everybody makes a big fuss over radioactivity. And the stuff they’re shipping has got less radioactivity than you get in a normal day’s work sitting in front of your computer or running a microwave.”

(Keese) Twitchell says the only complaints he’s heard have been from residents who say the trucks have been caravanning too close together. Plant representatives say they’ll try to space the shipments out. They’ve also taken out an insurance policy to pay for any road damage.

The trucking also became a concern on the other side of the border this week. On Wednesday a 46,000-pound steel container fell off a flatbed spilling its low-level radioactive cargo on a remote road in Rowe. The truck was headed toward Utah by way of southern Vermont.

The amount of radiation measured during the cleanup was a fraction of a percent over what’s considered background levels, Smith says.

According to Smith, most of the waste requiring a yellow warning placard has already been shipped south. The plant’s spent fuel roads are stored on site in protective containers, awaiting the establishment of a federal disposal site.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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