The Election Campaign
By Howard Shaffer, P.E. (nuclear)
Here in Enfield, N.H., our local paper—which covers both sides of the river between Vermont and New Hampshire—had a front-page story on October 6 about the two major gubernatorial candidates debating the fate of the Vermont Yankee (VY) nuclear power plant. This was the ninth of 13 debates, and the candidates seem to include VY in the debate each time. I’ve been to two of the debates. The candidates’ positions were clear before the debates began.
One candidate, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R.), is for the plant, if it is safe, as determined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He thinks that the state’s process of issuing a Certificate of Public Good (CPG), required of all utilities, should go to completion. He also thinks that the state attorney general’s investigation of whether or not VY committed liable in the CPG hearings should be completed, before a decision is made.
The other candidate, State Senator Peter Shumlin (D.), president pro tem, wants the plant to shut down at the end of its 40-year license. Shumlin quickly had a bill written to block the CPG issuance, and he brought it to a vote, at the height of emotion over an underground tritiated water leak last winter. The bill passed 26-4.
One newspaper commented that it appeared that Dubie had the VY plant as a running mate, based on the special interest group attack ads being run. (Online banner ads are being run both for and against VY.) Now there is a TV ad depicting Dubie as Pinocchio, with a nose that grows longer as each charge is recited.
Launch of the Vermont Energy Education Project
Meanwhile, Meredith Angwin’s Energy Education Project had a fantastic launch last Thursday. (View from Vermont, September 27) There was lively discussion of the economic and energy contributions of VY, and the negative impacts that a premature shutdown would have. Meredith Angwin posted a comprehensive summary of the launch at Yes Vermont Yankee. Visit to learn more and please consider a donation—it means a lot to the future of energy in this country!
Renewable Energy Vermont Conference
On October 1, I attended the Renewable Energy Vermont 9th Annual Conference. Notable were the luncheon remarks by U.S. senators from Vermont, Patrick Leahy (D.) and Bernie Sanders (I.). Nuclear power was never mentioned, but coal was. A technical session on legislative strategy revealed the slow progress of home retrofits, and the realities of permit problems, etc. Last was a gubernatorial debate, including the VY issue, of course. Sen. Shumlin got in only a few of his jabs about the plant, from the list he recited at an energy-only debate on September 18 in Bradford, Vt.:
- I am VY’s number one enemy.
- I want to make Vermont a model for the other 49 states (in shutting down VY, and other things). If Vermont can shut down the plant, the other states can shut down theirs. The stakes are high.
- The NRC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the industry. They will do everything they can (to keep VY running).
Vermont Yankee seems to be an issue in every race for the Vermont State Legislature, too. All the state senators and representatives are elected every two years. The Vermont Legislature meets each Tuesday through Friday during the legislative session, which runs from early January through late April. The adjournment date varies from year to year, but in general the Legislature tries to complete its work in sixteen or seventeen weeks.
Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 34 years. He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS commitees, national meeting staffs, and his local section; and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults as Nuclear Public Outreach. He is coordinator for the Vermot Pilot Project. Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.