Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Texans Make Plea: Don't Send Waste

Rutland Herald, August 20, 1998

   BRATTLEBORO _ Vermonters and Texans made an impassioned plea to state officials Wednesday to take responsibility for the radioactive waste generated by the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp.

   Residents from both states called on the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel to reject a three-state compact which would allow Vermont and Maine to ship its low-level nuclear waste to a site in western Texas.

   “Not only do we not make it, not only do we not use it, we were not given the opportunity to say no," said Susan Carry of Alpine, Texas. Curry lives 100 miles downstream on the Rio Grande from Sierra Blanca, a small community in Texas chosen as the disposal site for Vermont Yankee's low-level waste.

   With so many events taking place in the state involving the nuclear power industry, the VSNAP meeting drew quite a crowd of anti-nuclear power activists with specific concerns – the fate of radioactive waste both high and low-level, generated by the Vernon reactor.

   The low-level waste would be shipped to the Lose Star State if the Texas-Vermont-Maine compact is ratified. The high-leve1 waste was originally scheduled to be shipped out of state this year but is now staying in Vermont, at least far now, because the site is not ready, according to Vermont Yankee officials. Plant officials outlined a preliminary proposal Wednesday to add wet and dry storage for the high-level waste at the Vernon plant.

   Curry and the other Texans were in Vermont this week to give testimony to state officials on the Sierra Blanca site and to participate in the regional anti-nuclear events including the Vermont Walk for Nuclear Abolition, a six-day march across the state which will end Friday in Springfield.

   She and other activists accused Texas official, of “environmental racism" in selecting the 370,000 site in Sierra Blanca., which is in a predominately poor community of mostly Mexican-Americans who don’t speak English.

    “Sixty-seven percent of Sierra Blanc residents have an income below poverty level. Sixty percent do not speak or write English. Those are the people we have come up here to talk for," she said.

   Curry and Gary Oliver, another Texan who made the 2,400-mile trek to Vermont to participate in the events, including a weeklong "Action Camp” scheduled to kick off Friday by the Citizens Awareness Network, warned the six-member panel that if the compact goes through, Vermont will be on the list of defendants in a civil suit. “It's a cheap, unethical way to avoid accepting responsibility," Oliver told the board. "If it goes through, Vermont will win a place in history - a supposedly progressive state that finds itself on a wrong [side] of a lawsuit ever environmental justice."

   The compact has not yet been ratified, though it recently passed the U. S. House of Representatives for a second time after approved amendments were taken out by conference committee. The Senate is expected to vote on it Sept. 2, according to officials.

   Vermont's congressional delegation has supported the compact which calls for Vermont and Maine to chip in $12.5 million each to dump their waste in Texas. Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., voted in favor of the compact last month. Sens. Patrick Leahy D-Vt., and James Jeffords R-Vt., have voted in favor of the compact in the past.

   William K. Sherman, the state nuclear engineer and VSNAP member, has called the compact a "win-win" situation. He reiterated that assertion Wednesday,, noting that the compact has never been site specific. The site, he said, is a matter for the Texas administration.

   We sympathize with the People from the Texas area who don't wish to have it there," he said, adding that several residents from Sierra Blanca have come out in support of the site as a way to revive the sunken economy there.

   Texas officials have held hearings on the issue and in fact a panel of administrative law judges recommended last month that the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission reject an operating license for the site, because of environmental concerns, namely a fault fine beneath the site.

   The Texas commission is expected to rule on the license sometime later this year or early next year.

   Some Texas and Vermont officials have brushed aside the administrative law judge’s recommendation, saying that the likelihood of an earthquake moving the land on the site is slim.

   "We have more seismic activity here," Sherman said of Vermont.

   "There hasn't been any movement (in Sierra Blame) in 780,000 years," added Larry Barker, a state geologist on the panel representing the Agency of Natural Resources.

   VSNAP has not taken a stand on the compact, and it is unlikely that it will, said Richard Sedano chairman of the panel and the state’s Public Service Department commissioner.

   David Pyles of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Power, who expressed concerned about the transportation of the waste through 14 states before it reaches Texas, suggested that the low-level waste, like the high-level waste, stay on the site of of the Vernon plant.

   "If we can, store high-level radioactive waste above ground . . . why not the low-level waste?" he asked the panel, referring to Vermont Yankee's proposal to build a dry cask storage facility at the Vernon plant to house some of the spent fuel rods.

   Initially, Vermont Yankee expected to begin shipping some of its 2,331 spent fuel rods this year, to Yucca Mountain in Nevada as part of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. But the U.S. Department of Energy announced a few years ago that the site would not be ready until 2010.

   As a result, Vermont Yankee has come up with two interim storage solutions for its high-level waste: increase the capacity of the existing spent fuel pool and building transportable on-site storage.

   While the panel did not directly respond to Pyles’ question, Sherman said after the meeting that it’s not that easy.

   While the addition of fuel racks to the pool appears to be “doable” at first blush, according to Sherman, the dry-storage option is not.

   “We have some concerns,” he said, declining to elaborate. “We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with, but we do have general reservations about it.”

Push Here to Go Back Home