Shumlin says state should consider moving radioactive waste out of Vernon

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(Host intro) Senate President Peter Shumlin says he wants lawmakers to consider moving high level radioactive waste from southern Vermont to somewhere else in the state.

Governor Jim Douglas says he doesn’t see any need to move the waste because state and federal regulators have determined that the current site is a safe location.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Shumlin says it’s critical for the Legislature to look at this issue because the owners of Vermont Yankee want to extend its license for another 20 years.

Shumlin argues that when Vermont Yankee went on line in 1972, it was assumed that the federal government would build a national waste repository. But the debate over a national site has dragged on for years and the development of a location in Nevada is now the subject of numerous lawsuits.

Originally, Vermont Yankee stored their spent fuel rods in a pool at the facility in Vernon. When the pool became full, it received permission to put the rods in steel and concrete casks next to the plant.

Shumlin says it’s time to revisit the storage issue to determine if Vernon is the best location for the foreseeable future.

(Shumlin) “Any reasonable person, I believe, would agree that Vermont is now stuck with high level nuclear waste for the next 80 to 100 years, that the feds will never take it. So if that’s the case, it seems reasonable to have the discussion, when we talk about running the plant for another 20 years, where is the best-worst place in Vermont to store high level nuclear waste in the safest way possible?"

(Kinzel) Governor Douglas doesn’t support Shumlin’s plan. He says the current storage system is safe and that it makes no sense to move the spent fuel rods.

(Douglas) “That’s been reviewed and discussed and approved so all the regulators have determined that it’s an appropriate place. I think there’s a consensus even among anti-nuclear advocates that dry cask storage is safe, perhaps safer, than storing spent fuel rods in a pool. We have that capacity now and I think that will serve the plant well for some time."

(Kinzel) Despite the governor’s opposition, Shumlin says he’ll ask the Senate Natural Resources Committee to conduct a thorough geological study of possible waste sites in Vermont.

(Shumlin) “No one’s ever asked, `Is a floodplain on the banks of the Connecticut River the best place to store high level nuclear waste?’ And we need to have that question answered by experts who have actually thought it out. And I’m going to ask geologists to give us those answer – scientists, not politicians."

(Kinzel) While Shumlin wants this issue to be an important factor in the Legislature’s review of Vermont Yankee’s plan to extend its license, the governor says he hopes that doesn’t happen.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

AP Photo: Toby Talbot

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