Just the facts, please

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The opponents of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s continued operation are passionate, emotional and rightly concerned about the health of their children, themselves and the environment.

But many of the claims used to support their stance are not hard cold facts but rather exaggerations, misinformation and downright wrong, which do not serve their cause well.

For example, there were cries of distress when the Department of Health revealed that bones from fish caught near the power plant tested positive for strontium-90, proof the plant has been leaking radioactive materials into the environment.

A spokesman for the Vermont Department of Health told the public that the strontium levels were normal and within the background levels that are a result of the meltdown at Chernobyl and weapons testing that went on until 1965. Even the river steward of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, a fierce opponent to the plant’s continued operation, said the levels were normal.

Some of those opposed to Yankee’s operation point to reports issued by the Radiation and Public Health Project, which is responsible for the "Tooth Fairy Project" purporting to prove that levels of strontium measured in children’s teeth have been increasing and are highest around nuclear power plants.

But the project has been called "junk science" and has been refuted or criticized by the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, among others.

The report has also been called "patently false," "highly inaccurate," and "unsubstantiated" and has been characterized as "flawed methodology used to misinform the public, and to promote emotional, rather than rational, responses," by a number of reputable researchers and health organizations.

Studies around the country have shown there has been no increase in cancer in communities surrounding nuclear power plants, including Yankee.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced it is commissioning a new study to once again evaluate those rates.

A German study recently concluded that while there has been an increased rate of childhood leukemia within 5 miles of nuclear power plants in Germany, one of the authors cautioned that "the present status of radiobiological and epidemiological knowledge does not allow the conclusion that ionizing radiation emitted by German nuclear power plants during normal operation is the cause ... we do not know what is causing this increased risk."

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Closer to home, look no further than Vernon Elementary School, which has been in operation since 1952, 20 years prior to Yankee’s startup, and is within a David Ortiz home run of the power plant.

If people who attended the school since its startup were dropping dead from cancer we would know about it by now.

And it’s ridiculous to assume that the residents of Vernon are staying silent while their children are being diagnosed with leukemia just so they can take advantage of the lower tax rate due to Yankee’s assessed value.

Now let’s talk about some of the antics of those opposed to the plant’s continued operation, which, while they are satisfying to the hard-core group of people who attend each and every state and federal meeting related to the power plant, also do not serve the cause well.

While throwing compost, as happened at an NRC meeting last year, caused a titter of laughter from Yankee opponents, it pushed into the laps of the pro-Yankee group many people who were sitting on the fence.

Street theater, such as one person representing the industry and another representing the NRC simulating copulation during another meeting, was offensive and over the top.

Instead of relying on emotions and hackneyed reasons to shut down the power plant, opponents should be writing checks in support of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which has done more to slow down the relicensing and call into question the plant’s safety than all the other nuclear activists combined.

NEC bases its reasoning on facts and scientific truths, not emotion, and has been successful in forcing Entergy and the NRC to take a second look at the way risk is managed at Yankee.

Those who oppose the plant could also send a check to the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which has been fighting to prevent Yankee from increasing the temperature of the river via its discharge of cooling water.

And there are the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Natural Resource Defense Council, which are all asking the NRC to shut down Yankee as a result of the tritium leak and are basing their reasoning on law and regulations.

So if you are opposed to the plant operating past 2012, put your money where your big mouth is, become better informed and stop the childish outbursts and juvenile foot stomping.


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