My response to Guy Page’s op-ed published Feb. 15, 2012

Guy Page’s column is misleading (or just plain wrong) on a number of points:

1) “1,200 workers at Vermont Yankee.” According to the testimony of Jacob Thomas filed in November 2008 for DPS, VY had 502 employees, of whom 218 reside in VT. There is no reason to think this has changed significantly since 2008.

2) “Ratepayers.” Actually, Mr. Page doesn’t address rates under this heading. That’s convenient for him because, had VT’s utilities accepted the contract filed with the PSB in December 2009, they would be paying significantly MORE for power than under the contracts they’ve obtained to replace VY power after next month.

Mr. Page does address ISO-NE’s comments under this heading, but he misrepresents their position. All of the comments I’ve seen have been quite consistent, stating that there would be minor reliability problems if VY were to shut down, that ISO is addressing them. VELCO made similar statements as well. This position was clearly stated to the legislature in the late fall/early winter of 2009 and is fully and carefully addressed in detail in testimony provided by the State to Judge Murtha (and equally carefully ignored).

3) As just noted, Vermont Yankee is NOT “low cost.” Nor is it “fully permitted” as Mr. Page asserts. VY’s clean water permit expired years ago, bringing into question its NRC license for the period beginning next month. That’s being litigated in the DC Court of Appeals. Also, VY’s CPG will expire next month, though Judge Murtha’s decision allows the plant to continue to operate without one until the PSB reaches its final decision on the matter.

I’m delighted to see Mr. Page finally using the phrase “low-carbon” rather than “no carbon” as he has in the past. The nuclear fuel cycle produces carbon at every stage, as well as releasing vast quantities of HEAT (remember, it’s global WARMING we’re concerned with) into the CT River.

4) Mr. Page asserts that “It is now crystal clear the state was not being transparent about its real reason for wanting to shut down the plant — safety.” First, it is worth nothing that the laws Judge Murtha overturned did not, as a simple matter of fact, shut down Vermont Yankee at all. They both required legislative votes prior to CPGs being granted for continuing operations. Act 160 set up an elaborated process to obtain the information – with maximum public input – which would be required both by the legislature and the PSB to determine whether continued operations were in the public good.

Second, neither law contains ANY reference to “safety” nor its supposed surrogate “reliability.” Neither word is ever used. Indeed, reading the text of the laws as passed – something the judge apparently did not deign to bother doing – reveals NOTHING whatever about safety, but a great deal about other “real reasons.”

It’s certainly true that “Judge Murtha, in his ruling, pointed out that the legislative record showed instances “almost too numerous to count … [which] reveal legislators’ radiological safety motivations and reflect their wish to empower the legislature to address their constituents’ fear of radiological risk.”” What he does NOT point out is the context in which these remarks were made, nor does he establish ANY relationship of any kind with the legislation actually passed.

Third, there is no reason legislators should NOT have “radiological safety motivations.” Among other things, legislators interact with NRC officials in the course of their duties, and they most certainly ARE permitted to express safety concerns to these officials. What they may NOT do, given federal preemption, is pass legislation based solely on their safety concerns. Beyond the cherry-picked inquiry into legislative motive that the Supreme Court explicitly advised is “often an unsatisfactory venture,” because “What motivates one legislator to vote for a statute is not necessarily what motivates scores of others to enact it.” (PG&E, p. 216), there is NO evidence that Vermont legislators did regulate safety.

These are just a few of the reasons the Murtha decision should be appealed. There are MANY more, which I (and others) have discussed at length elsewhere.

Finally, it should be noted that Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee is a member of the Vermont Energy Partnership.

 

The op-ed can be found at: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120215/OPINION02/202150308/Murtha-s-Yankee-decision-victory-Vermonters?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

 

Clairifying the problems of Nuclear Power in the Green Mountain State and beyond