Vermont Yankee closure discussed at business group's fall conference

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DOVER -- No one would disagree that Vermont Yankee's closure will be a long process with lots of important steps.

On Nov. 20, Vermont Businesses For Social Responsibility held its 21st annual fall conference at the Grand Summit at Mount Snow. One of the discussions had been titled "Vermont Yankee Decomissioning -- Issues and Opportunities." A panel went over several questions based on the theme.

"I hope people leave with a little more knowledge," said moderator Jeff Potter, editor of The Commons. "I encourage you to keep engaging and keep at it. ... It really touches on pretty much every aspect of living down here."

Executive Director of Citizens Awareness Network Representative Deb Katz presented photographs showing a nuclear site that was being cleaned. Sites such as these become toxic waste dumps, she told conference attendees.

"This is a cautionary tale. There are no good solutions to nuclear power and no great solution to clear the site up. You have a situation where you're choosing the best of the worst," she said, advocating for Vermont Yankee employees to be hired for cleaning because they would have knowledge of spills and other events that could help in the clean-up.

Citing the history of legal battles around Vermont Yankee, State Rep. Rebecca Ellis advocated for the state to be focused on economic issues and bring safety concerns to the federal government or commission responsible for regulating the plant.

Physicist Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates spoke of the extremely radioactive material found in nuclear plants, which will be kept in dry storage casks that have several layers.

"The fuel is actually fairly hot in there, much above the boiling point of water," he said. "When all this fuel is taken out and put into these dry storage casks, when they remove all the fuel and take apart the reactor, there will be over 60 of these casks that sit on a storage (area)."

Resnikoff voiced his worry of the costs associated with closing the plant.

"The cost to take care of the nuclear fuel, (plant owner) Entergy has said they're going to pay for," he said. "And what that really means is they're going to be reimbursed by the Department of Energy."

Seventy-five percent to 80 percent of the money would be given to Entergy, continued Resnikoff.

"The rest is going to have to be put up by them," he said. "Where is this money going to come from is the question. I hope it's not going to come from Vermont taxpayers."

Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation Economic Development Director Laura Sibilia spoke of Windham County's economic climate.

"We are getting older and we are losing our workforce population," she said. "We're older than Maine, which is the oldest state in the country. And our wages are less than many of our New England counterparts."

Replacing the revenue stream of Vermont Yankee has been part of the challenge. Resnikoff asked Sibilia about how the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies group's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy document will assist the county.

"It's a federally recognized plan to grow the economy. We will get that approved around the country and by the Economic Development Administration," she said. "What it will say is: ‘We need to improve the quality and size of our workforce.'"

One of the projects in the document includes working with top 25 employers to establish a five year hiring projection, based on turnover and need to grow. Another was a sustainable marketing project that includes other neighboring counties.

"Working with Entergy" was another project that Sibilia mentioned, which will include obtaining information about the jobs that will be lost after the plant closes and the training those employees have.

"It's going to be a long process," she said. "Windham County was in trouble before this happened and that had caused us to start to plan. We have a plan and we have started to execute this plan."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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