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VERNON — Some empty “spacer” freight cars and engines  on their way to Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant derailed last week.

No nuclear waste was involved, according to a NorthStar Group Services spokesman. Repairs to the rail line were still being done on Wednesday. The derailment took place Feb. 24, near the rail crossing near the Miller Farm.

NorthStar has been demolishing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant since 2019.

The six empty freight cars never tipped over or spilled anything, according to Anthony Iarrapino, a spokesperson for NorthStar. Two of the four engines derailed. 

“The cars involved in the derailment are known as spacer cars. When the train is loaded with NorthStar materials, the empty spacer cars are alternated in between each car carrying NorthStar materials,” he wrote in an email.

“An inbound freight train experienced a minor derailment en route to pickup a shipment from the Vermont Yankee decommissioning site. The train was not carrying any NorthStar material at the time of the derailment, no one was injured, and no property was damaged as a result, and the derailed train cars remained upright. Railroad officials, with NorthStar’s cooperation and assistance, worked to place the derailed cars back on the track and to identify the repairs needed to place the track back in service safely and efficiently,” he added.

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He said the freight cars are used as spacers on a regular string of rail cars that contain nuclear waste from the decommissioning of the nuclear plant, which started three years ago.

NorthStar had upgraded the rail spur serving the plant before demolition began, with the goal of keeping as much demolition waste off Vernon and Vermont’s roads.

Tony Leshinskie, the nuclear engineer with the Vermont Department of Public Service, did not respond to a request for comment.

The derailment in Vernon comes at a time of increased news about train derailments around the country, in particular a toxic waste spill disaster in Palestine, Ohio.

“The whole idea of shipping SNF (high level radioactive waste/spent nuclear fuel) all over the country on rail lines is at the heart of what DOE (Department of Energy) wants to start in the years ahead. We should all be nervous about such a development in light of Palestine, OH and many other such incidents,” said Lissa Weinmann of Brattleboro, the vice chairwoman of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

Contact Susan Smallheer at