Gander adds voice to dry cask debate

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(Host) A Windham County senator who’s suffering from cancer has been too sick to be at the Statehouse all year. But on Friday, Democratic Senator Rod Gander came to Montpelier to add his voice to the debate over storage of spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Senator Gander has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments. He’s seventy-four and looks a little frail, but says he feels OK.

He would not have come to Montpelier on Friday except for a key committee vote on a nuclear waste storage deal at Vermont Yankee.

Gander says the Legislature should take more time on the issue. And he draws on his years as a magazine editor to explain what can happen in the rush to deadline.

(Gander) “I’ve been only at a couple of these last-minute closings up here at the Legislature. But that’s when you make all your mistakes. I mean, you really do. I worked for Newsweek magazine for twenty-five years. We made all our mistakes in the last half-hour before we closed the magazine.”

(Dillon) Gander serves on the Senate Finance Committee. The panel is one of the last stops for a bill that allows Vermont Yankee to seek approval to put its highly radioactive waste in steel and concrete casks near the Connecticut River.

Entergy, the company that owns the reactor, has promised to pay the state $2.5 million dollars a year for six years. But that’s only if it wins approval to boost its power by twenty percent.

Entergy still needs permission – it’s called a certificate of public good – from the Public Service Board for the storage plan, as well as final approval for the uprate.

Gander says approval for the waste storage shouldn’t have anything to do with money.

(Gander) “And this piddling $2.5 million – two-fifths of one percent of the state’s budge. The annual budget, makes it seem like certificates of public good are for sale. And that is not a perception that you want out there.”

(Dillon) Gander says he was disturbed by reports that Entergy would close down the plant unless the Legislature gave the go-ahead for dry cask storage.

(Gander) “And I don’t like to be bullied, or threatened.”

(Dillon) According to Gander, it makes sense – to protect public health and safety – to give the issue a lot more study.

(Gander) “My vote today is not about objecting to dry cask storage as a method of storing fuel. It has nothing to do with that. It’s about that we don’t need to take this vote at this time. And we don’t need to take this vote at this time.”

(Dillon) Gander says he also wants to play a role in the debate over health care reform. But it’s the nuclear issue, he says, that’s of particular concern to his district.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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