A local story

Editor of the Reformer:

I gave my truck to my daughter to take back up to Burlington for school. Two weeks, I live in Brattleboro, no problem.

It was a hectic couple of weeks for her: papers, exams, her station manger job at WRUV and a film project that got some national attention.

She was looking forward to coming home, so when I got a call saying she was on the side of the highway and the window washer fluids wouldn’t work it was a little concerning, especially with the muddy roadways after a stormy weekend, but we went into damage control mode. First question: fluid? Empty. Yea! problem solved. Phone call 2 minutes later: They still won’t work. She’s now in a parking lot at a Sunoco that’s closed across the highway from a Fairfield Inn but no other gas stations.

I call AAA. They tell me I need to put her on my account for roadside assistance and I need renewal. OK. So, $80 later I call my daughter, give her the info and wait. I get a phone call saying AAA only tow and have no idea where to send her. Now there’s a little panic and a tired, tired young person on the verge of tears on the other end of the phone. I again ask her to wait for a minute while I think of who to call.

I called Best Muffler on Canal Street in Brattleboro. Henry was outside blowing snow off the sidewalks but Kevin was so sweet, he asked the other guys if they knew someone in Burlington, they didn’t but Steve from Bond auto parts was just arriving and they took the time to ask him. They gave me the Ethan Allen Mobil in Burlington (802-864-9450), told me to have my daughter speak with Tim and to mention Steve.

She did and a half hour later I got a call saying everything was OK. She called him, he told her to come right over. Tim fixed the dislodged washer fluid tubing in a few minutes and after thoughtfully asking if she had reserves, fixed her up with a gallon of fluid (he only charged her for the fluid). She sat in the parking lot for an hour and a half while I (we) went back and forth with AAA; it took a phone call to Best Muffler and everything was OK a half hour later.

Shop Local.

Just wanted to say thank you to Best Muffler, Kevin, Steve from Bond Auto Parks, all the guys and Henry

Happiest of Holidays!

Barbara Holliday,

Brattleboro, Dec. 16

On health care ...

Editor of the Reformer:

I am a fortunate 20-year beneficiary of America’s single-payer federal health insurance, Medicare. While it needs improvement, it has excellent coverage and acceptance.

Medicare provides: Free, fast, easy enrollment. Applicants must prove citizenship, paying into the system; insurance for seniors 65 and older, disabled and two specific disorders; insurance independent of employment; insurance for all incomes, a one-class system; policies that cover individuals, without dependents’ insurance issues; and portability to all states. Most providers accept Medicare; doctor of person’s choice (Providers are not government employees).

Aren’t these the basic features for universal coverage? What else in America provides this? None. Gaps abound. Since 1965, seniors have been so privileged. Let’s lower the Medicare age to zero.

Remember that Medicare is insurance; it does not provide health care.

From my privileged perch, I watch costly, frustrating enrollment chaos in new state marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Private insurers will eventually profit hugely. Yes, more people will be insured, but many of the neediest will be excluded. The ACA’s intent to insure most Americans has been undercut by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that allows states to refuse additional Medicaid enrollment plus additional Federal funding; 20 states currently have chosen this option, including Texas with 25 percent uninsured poor.

Yes, there are many good things about the ACA, with more becoming insured through the exchanges. But millions of the poorest in some states will remain uncovered because the Supreme Court’s apparent commitment to inequality.

Ironically, senior citizens, now 16 percent of us and rising, have overwhelmingly endorsed Medicare. Few would give it up. About 65 percent of seniors vote in national elections. Over half are Republicans. It seems that if they vote with their party, they’ll support the right wing’s efforts to privatize Medicare.

Margaret Newton, MD,

West Brattleboro, Dec. 19

Devil in the details

Editor of the Reformer:

To put this emerging deal into perspective, Vermont Yankee employs about 650 people at an average salary/wage of $100,000, which is a $65 million annual payroll. Assuming Entergy reduces the workforce by two-thirds by December 2014, Windham County loses about $43 million in annual payroll.

Entergy has agreed to make payments to Vermont of about $45 million, with some payments spread over a number of years.

Entergy was probably well aware back in July 2002 that the provisions of the memoranda of understanding their company had just signed with Vermont were probably unenforceable -- a belief confirmed in federal district court 10 years later when the court ruled that the Atomic Energy Act preempted two Vermont laws.

Keep in mind that the term "decommissioning" as used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refers to the general process of post-operation activities. Per the NRC, there are three decommissioning options: DECON, SAFSTOR and ENTOMB.

Transferring fuel to dry cask storage sure looks like the start of SAFSTOR to me.

As for Entergy agreeing to perform the site-cost analysis two years sooner than required by the NRC, that is but one requirement of the Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report Entergy is required to submit to the NRC. Here are the PSDAR requirements: A description and schedule for the planned decommissioning activities; an estimate of the expected costs; and a discussion that provides the means for concluding that the environmental impacts associated with the decommissioning activities will be bounded by appropriately issued environmental impact statements.

Note, the NRC does not approve the PSDAR, but does notice it in the Federal Register and does hold local hearings for public comment. So, let’s wait for the PSDAR, and five will get you 10, Governor Shumlin is off by about 25 to 30 years before the site is fully decontaminated.

If you find yourself in a lifeboat with the devil, you can either row or steer, but the devil may make not be inclined to give you a choice.

Peter T. Novick,

Newfane, Dec. 24

Misplaced trust?

Editor of the Reformer:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided long ago that if we could trust power plant operators to safely operate plants and manage nuclear fuel, we could trust them to safely dismantle and decommission the plants. What if this trust, and our trust, are misplaced?

On Nov. 8, Entergy reported officially and publicly to the NRC regarding Vermont Yankee that "a missing conduit flood seal between an outside manhole and the West Switchgear Room compromised the flooding design of both the East and West Switchgear Rooms. Internal flooding of both Switchgear Rooms could affect safe shutdown, removal of decay heat, control of release of radioactive material and mitigating an accident."

And on Mar. 19: "The causes of the dislodged flood seal were due to the seal not being conservatively sized or tested for the application it was used in and failure to take timely corrective actions following a similar event (on May 24, 2012). During an extent of condition review, an additional water intrusion pathway into the Switchgear Rooms via an abandoned sump pump discharge line was discovered."

Flood seals are an NRC safety precaution to prevent a nuclear disaster at Vermont Yankee and other plants sharing Fukushima’s design. Entergy and NRC resident inspectors admit "failure to take timely corrective actions" despite knowing that the risk is nuclear disaster. Can we trust them to safely dismantle and decommission the plant?

Not without independent supervision. We need a Vermont Yankee Community Advisory Panel, whom Gov. Shumlin could appoint now to join in negotiating and overseeing dismantling and decommissioning, as did the Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel, within eight years to a greenfield, within budget and well within radiation limits.

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, Dec. 17