Published on Thursday, February 11, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Like a decayed flotilla of rickety steamers, at least 27 of
The fallout has been fiercest at
In 2007 one of Yankee's 22 cooling towers simply collapsed due to rot.
Now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed  tritium levels in a monitoring well at
Yankee is owned by Entergy, a Mississippi-based consortium that also owns
Entergy says none of Yankee's tritium has been found in local drinking water or in the Connecticut River, which supplies the plant's cooling water. Vernon sits near Vermont's southeast border with Massachusetts, across the river from
But VY is just the latest of more than two dozen
Last year at
The NRC's Neil Sheehan has confirmed leaks involving 27 of 104 licensed US reactors, and says that probably doesn't account for all of them. At Yankee, Oyster Creek and elsewhere, rotting pipes are the likeliest culprit, but no one is 100% certain.
The epidemic has escalated public dismay. Vermont state Representative Tony Klein, chair of House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, says that "when you have public officials that the public depends on for their health and welfare making casual statements that a radioactive substance is not harmful to you, I think that's ludicrous."
For decades the Encylopedia Britannica,
Thus far the NRC has granted a series of license renewals to aging reactors. But by virtue of a long-standing agreement with Entergy, the
With VY operating under duress, Katz and others report an increasing wave of concern among local citizens starting to think seriously about how they might evacuate if Entergy keeps pushing. "This plant appears to be leaking from its reactor piping, but they don't really know where," she says. "They don't want to shut down because they're afraid they'll never get back up. Entergy is choosing to protect its bottom line rather than the health and safety of our community."
Indeed, a desperate national industry now pushing for massive federal subsidies to build new reactors may not survive a flood of elderly clunkers being forced to close by the weight of their own contamination. "This is an industry trying to build a new fleet of Titanics while the old ones are sinking," says Katz.
Amidst the gusher of tritium leaks, Governor Douglas wants to postpone the legislature's vote on VY's license extension. But his term expires in November, and all five Democratic gubernatorial candidates are pledged to a Yankee shutdown.
What happens next will be defined by fierce grassroots activism crashing into a flood of corporate money in support of a rickety old reactor being operated with increasing recklessness.
The highly hyped "reactor renaissance"---and much more---may hang in the balance. Stay tuned.
Harvey Wasserman is Senior Advisor to Greenpeace
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/11-3
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs