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Local legislators weigh in on Vermont Yankee groundwater issue and relicensing

01/21/2010

By Lisa Loomis

With the news last week and this week that monitoring wells at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant were contaminated with tritium, a radioactive isotope, state regulators are reviewing the record provided by Entergy Nuclear, owner of the plant, and Vermont legislators are preparing for hearings this session on whether or not to relicense the plant for another 20 years.

In light of the news of the contamination, as well as communications from Entergy to Vermont regulators that have been labeled everything from "lies" to "miscommunications," local state representatives were asked for their reaction as well as their inclination towards relicensing the plant.

MORE ARDUOUS

Adam Greshin, I-Warren, represents Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston. He had previously expressed support for relicensing the plant based on the legal ramifications of the contract between the state and Entergy Nuclear. This week, however, he is more wary.

"Last week's revelations call into question the competence, if not the honesty, of plant management. The long, arduous road to relicensing the plant just got longer and more arduous. Last month's power price offer and last week's 'miscommunication' about underground pipes, taken together, do not offer a compelling reason to renew the plant's license for another 20 years," Greshin said.

Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, represents Moretown, Northfield and Roxbury, as does Maxine Grad, D-Moretown.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

"There are very serious issues of corporate responsibility and ethical behavior that this newest episode highlights. It is clearly a factor in assessing basic safety concerns and sustainability against the needs of Vermont's overall energy portfolio. This is separate, however, from the question of whether the Vermont Legislature or the Public Service Board (in conjunction with the role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) should be making the relicensing decision," Donahue said.

"We may be too close to the situation in Vermont to get a broader perspective. I read with interest the comments in the January issue of the national magazine for state legislatures, Governing, which notes that Vermont is the only state in the country where the Legislature has the power to vote on relicensing, and it has that power because it gave it to itself. Governing notes, 'No one is quite sure whether federal courts will look kindly on the authority Vermont's lawmakers have seized for themselves,'" she added.

Grad questioned the veracity of the information coming from Entergy.

"As legislators our focus is on reliability. Recent events call into question the reliability of information we are getting upon which to make our decisions to fully serve and protect Vermont's energy needs," Grad said.

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