Vt. DPS chief: VY is safe

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BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont Yankee is safe to operate, said Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner David O'Brien, during the 90th Annual Meeting of Associated Industries of Vermont in Montpelier, Friday.

"Vermont Yankee is safe, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says so," O'Brien told the crowd of 150 manufacturers and other business leaders, as well as leading state officials and candidates. "The plant scores highly in industry peer review, and its problems, although well publicized, do not pose health concerns."

O'Brien also said Yankee is critical to ensuring Vermont manufacturers continue to have low-cost power so they can effectively compete with overseas competition.

"Making rate payers pay 30 cents per kilowatt for their electricity is not the solution," he said, a reference to the state's feed-in tariff that requires the state's utilities to buy electricity from solar generators at prices well above market.

O'Brien also said Yankee and renewables should both be part of Vermont's energy future.

He said that a truly diverse and environmentally sound energy portfolio includes renewables supported by base load nuclear and hydropower.

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A panel made up of representatives from leading manufacturing and technology companies in the state said prior to O'Brien's presentation that energy costs, along with tax burdens and other key issues, need to be addressed to keep Vermont manufacturing competitive nationally and globally.

Members of the panel said Yankee, if allowed to operate 20 years past its current expiration date of 2012, it could represent one of the largest sources of affordable electricity available to the state.

O'Brien also said he would like to see new nuclear power plants built in the United States as a way to cut down on carbon emissions.

Spent nuclear fuel is a very real concern with the failure of the federal government to honor its commitments on long-term storage or to advance re-processing of the waste, he said.

"(B)ut at least you know where byproduct of generation is and you can manage it," said O'Brien. "With fossil fuels, you don't."

The headline on this story was corrected from our printed edition.


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