In a state where energy debates are sometimes characterized in terms of BTUs per per pound of granola, it was interesting this week to read a letter to the editor in favor of nuclear energy. It comes at a contentious time when protesters disrupted a relicensing hearing for Vermont Yankee.
In Brattleboro, Vermont, a laid back home to just about any "alternative" you can think of, including natural energy sources, like granola, it was a source of supreme wonderment to read a letter advocating the use of nuclear energy to provide electricity to the state. In a region where the native reflex about Vermont Yankee is to find a way to kick it in the shins, this was simply amazing.
Things are pretty tense in Vermont on the issue of nuclear energy. The NRC has received an application from Entergy Vermont Nuclear, the owners of Vermont Yankee, to extend the plant’s operating license for an additional 20 years beyond the 2012 expiration. The Vermont legislature isn't waiting for the results. It recently took up the debate about forcing the plant's operator to fully fund a decommissioning fund by 2012.
Recently Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the Director of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research (IEER), went to Vermont for a speaking engagement. He's a scholar and a dedicated analyst of the industry and he is persistent. IEER's speaker was in the state in March to tell anti-nuclear activists what they wanted to hear, that license renewal is a bad idea. That's the atmospheric theory, but in practice the political weather was stormy a month later.
Hearing disrupted by hecklers
A recent public hearing on the subject turned ugly April 3rd. Representatives from Vermont's Department of Public Service were heckled by anti-nuclear activists during a public meeting in Brattleboro. The meeting was the last of four around the state that the DPS hosted to discuss the future of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
DPS Spokesman Stephen Wark was interrupted several times as he attempted to explain to the crowd of more than 100 people the process behind the state's review of the power plant.
According to a report in the local newspaper, the state's nuclear engineer, Uldis Vanags, weathered shouts from more than two dozen people during the first half hour of the meeting as they attempted to explain the state process and how a nuclear power plant operates.
"Some people here tonight are more interested in grandstanding than in participating," said Wark, after the crowd broke into five groups to discuss Vermont Yankee. "We're here for a period of time with a serious mission and that's to collect information for in-depth studies. We want to make sure we are hearing the people."
Wark said previous meetings in Burlington, St. Johnsbury and Rutland were not disrupted by protesters.
"This doesn't dissuade us from what we came here to do," he said.
Nuclear advocate not dissuaded either
All this is a wind up to the actual pro-nuclear letter. Here is the full text
Nuclear power should not be dismissed
Wednesday, April 9
Editor of the Reformer:
Makhijani and his anti-nuclear power friends may decide that nuclear power is doomed, but the rest of the world happily is ignoring that nonsense ("Energy expert pronounces new nuke plants doomed," March 17).
You only have to look at the quickly growing economies of the developing world to see that nuclear is a mainstay of the future. There are 30 new plants under construction right now, mostly in Asia. China has long range plans for 100; India expects to build 20, Japan 12 with two already under construction. Countries in Europe which had halted their nuclear programs, with a few exceptions such as France, are rethinking that strategy.
Nuclear power is capable of supplying half of this country's energy needs for the next 1,000 years, and produces almost no greenhouse gasses in doing so. In addition, each new nuclear plant once in operation, will eliminate the need for about 80,000 barrels of imported oil each day. No other source can honestly make that claim.
We will of course need other sources of electricity, such as wind, but to dismiss nuclear power, one of the most important electricity sources that does not generate greenhouse gasses or air pollution, is truly folly.
Bob Leach, Brattleboro, March 24
* * *
PS: For anyone who thinks I am "anti-granola," it isn't so. Here''s a great recipe on how to make the stuff from the Food Network.