Margaret Harrington: Vermont’s plans to dump on Nevada

January 04, 2018

Margaret Harrington: Vermont’s plans to dump on Nevada

Courtesy of VT Digger


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Margaret Harrington, of Burlington, who is host/producer of the “Nuclear Free Future Conversation” broadcast on Ch 17 Center for Media and Democracy.

Forty years of nuclear waste from Vermont Yankee in Vernon should not be transferred to the proposed high-level nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

Rep. Peter Welch supported H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, and continues to support the transfer of Vermont Yankee’s nuclear waste on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vernon to a permanent site operated by the federal government. This is Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which Congress designated in 1987 as the site for the permanent repository of nuclear fuel. After 30 years of consideration, the Trump administration is now seeking funding to jump start Yucca’s development and construction.

Rep. Welch is going along with this plan which is exactly what the nuclear power industry wants.

Rep. Welch does not care that Yucca Mountain is on Western Shoshone Indian land as recognized by the United States government since 1863, thus making the Yucca dump scheme illegal and unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Energy does not hold title to the land or water at Yucca Mountain.

Rep. Welch does not care that the Yucca dump would be environmental injustice and radioactive racism targeting people of color and low-income communities for the country’s high-level radioactive waste dump.

Rep. Welch does not care that Yucca is scientifically unsuitable, seismically unstable and potentially volcanically active. Scientists have determined that “the combination of underground water saturation, rock chemistry, and nuclear waste thermal heat would create the perfect storm corroding burial containers and releasing radioactive waste into groundwater in a relatively short amount of time.”

Rep. Welch does not care that if nuclear waste is shipped from Vermont Yankee and the other 99 nuclear reactors in the United States to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, these shipments of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel would be on the roads, rails and waterways of 43 states going past the homes of tens of millions of Americans.

Rep. Welch has written to me: “H.R. 3053 was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee with my support in a vote of 49 to 4.” It looks like the bill will be approved soon, perhaps before what I am writing here is published. Also there is no indication from Sens. Patrick Leahy or Bernie Sanders that they will not go along with the dumping of Vermont nuclear waste in Nevada.

There are at least two things Vermonters can do about this problem:

1) The Vermont Legislature can vote not to transport nuclear waste from Vermont Yankee at all. They can vote to keep it in Hardened On-Site Storage as hundreds of environmental groups representing all 50 states have been advocating.

2) Vermont voters can replace Rep. Welch in November 2018 with a U.S. representative from Vermont who has the wisdom not to dump Vermont’s nuclear waste on Nevada.

I invite readers to watch my next Nuclear Free Future Conversation program on Ch 17 Center for Media and Democracy on Jan. 4, when my guest will be Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste watchdog with Beyond Nuclear, based near Washington, D.C., who will shine a light on all the issues I have introduced here and who has spent his young life waking us up to right action.