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Posted January 19, 2007

A powerless world?

Hattie Nestel’s commentary (Vermont Guardian, Jan. 12) was full of inaccurate statements designed to scare people, not to inform them.

As a former nuclear submarine engineer officer, I can tell you that there is no such thing as routine emissions of radioactive materials from a nuclear power plant. If there were, how would it be possible to seal up a reactor inside a ship full of people?

Any power system that is clean enough to seal up inside a submarine is worth real discussion and investigation — especially since the only economical alternative is to continue burning about 1.3 billion tons of coal per year in the United States and more than 4 billion tons worldwide. If we were to shut down nuclear power plants, those figures would increase by at least 33 percent initially, and would continue to increase as power demands continued to rise.

None of us want to live in a dangerous world, but few of us are willing to live in a powerless world.

Rod Adams
Annapolis, MD

KO radiation with KI
Rather than try to convince the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to shut down Vermont Yankee (something that will never happen), why not make the more reasonable demand to assure enhanced safety in the event of a radiation release by insisting the NRC obtain adequate supplies of potassium iodide (KI) to protect everyone within 200 miles of the reactor.

Currently, Vermont has only a tiny fraction of the amount they would need in an emergency. KI works, and that’s why it’s supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Thyroid Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and many others.

Alan Morris
Palm Harbor, FL
Alan Morris works for Anbex, Inc., a maker of potassium iodide pills.

Nuclear power emits little radiation
Hattie Nestel seems to think that she can scare everyone into hating nuclear power. Her “carcinogenic” claims may have been understandable 50 years ago, but today we know that they don’t make sense.

The United States has been using nuclear energy for nearly 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of workers have spent literally millions of staff hours working at these important facilities. Has even one of these workers experienced any radiation sickness? The answer is an emphatic “No!” On the contrary. According to a study by Johns Hopkins involving over 30,000 nuclear workers, they are no more likely to get cancer than their non-nuclear counterparts. Contrary to popular belief, nuclear power plants emit very little radiation. In fact, you’d have to live next to a nuclear power plant for 50 years to get the same amount of radiation that you would get from one round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles.

With the threat of climate change before us, we cannot afford to dismiss the most valuable player in this fight. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Greenpeace founder Dr. Patrick Moore now strongly supports nuclear energy.

Michael Stuart
Beaverdam, VA

J. Patrick Moore debunked
Dr. J. Patrick Moore, supposed co-founder of Greenpeace in 1976, said, “It should be remembered that there are employed in the nuclear industry some very high-powered public relations organizations. One can no more trust them to tell the truth about nuclear power than about which brand of toothpaste will result in this apparently insoluble problem.”

He also said: “Nuclear power plants are, next to nuclear warheads themselves, the most dangerous devices that man has ever created. Their construction and proliferation is the most irresponsible, in fact the most criminal, act ever to have taken place on the planet.”

Now he has changed his mind and is considered a supposed “expert.” His new CASEnergy coalition is exactly one of those high-powered pubic relations organizations he decried.

Even more shocking is that as he wrongly peddles nuclear power as the solution to global warming, he espouses ideas that potentially prevent us as Vermonters and as U.S. citizens from investing in renewable and sustainable electrical generating means.

Moore believes dry cask is a perfectly safe and secure way to store spent fuel.

Meanwhile the issue of what to do with the waste after the “temporary” solution that may be dry cask storage still lingers. In determining a solution to the long-term storage of radioactive waste, scientists found that minerals intended to entrap nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years may be susceptible to structural breakdown within 1,400 years. These findings were reported by a team from the University of Cambridge and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the Jan. 11, 2007, in the journal Nature.
The new study used nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR, to show that the effects of radiation from plutonium incorporated into the mineral zircon rapidly degrades the mineral’s crystal structure.

“This could lead to swelling, loss of physical strength and possible cracking of the mineral as soon as 210 years, well before the radioactivity had decayed to safe levels, said lead author and Cambridge earth scientist Ian Farnan,” the article stated.

Dr. Moore claims to know his science yet he apparently supports the current fad of temporary waste solutions. Still no one knows what to do with the waste long term. Scientists admitted to falsifying data to win pre-approval for Yucca Mountain, and now Vermont legislators are hearing from an activist turned capitalist scientist and he is given the title of “expert.”

If he was an “expert” when he co-founded Greenpeace, and now as a turncoat he is considered an “expert” on the global warming issue, I just wonder what he will believe next week, month, decade and why we as laypeople or legislators should trust his supposed expertise.

Gary Sachs

Keep big wind at bay
As the 2007 legislative body begins its new session, we hope skepticism remains for large-scale wind development in Vermont.

On the national level, Vermont is relatively insignificant as a wind resource. It ranks 34th. Still, huge federal subsidies and saleable green tags attract foreign investors to this region.

The Northeast Kingdom has been inundated by poorly-sited wind projects that have threatened our communities and rural towns.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, are seeking an ambitious agenda to combat global warming. Although Vermont may or may not impact a global warming crisis, efforts to develop micro-hydro projects; biofuels; methane plants; small-scale wind for businesses, municipalities, and farms; conservation; and advanced solar technology are good beginnings.

More than a year ago, industrial wind developers received nearly $1 million in utility grants to construct 16 420-foot towers in and around Barton, Sheffield, and neighboring Sutton. To protect our region, more than 300 residents, businesses, and visitors have donated more $500,000 to preserve our historic buildings, our tourist based economy, our local businesses, boarding schools, lakes, and small towns.

For legislators to invest time, money, and energy in support of large-scale wind development instead of emphasizing local alternatives is disappointing.

It is difficult to site large industrial projects in Vermont. Designating which communities or landscapes are not historically relevant, scenic, or appealing and protecting areas that are environmentally sensitive should take years.

If our legislators should err on this issue, they should err on the side of caution. The public should be involved in this process from the very beginning. Communities should be included long before wind developers arrive in town with the state’s blessing and a bag full of federal money. The costs to every community involved are hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vermont has a long history of protecting its undeveloped ridgelines. Previous legislatures have struggled to protect this beautiful landscape for us and we hope this legislature will be just as vigilant in protecting it for those who will follow.

Greg Bryant

Another supporter of independent journalism
I subscribed to your newspaper, from here in New York, because I sensed a sort of independent journalism that you offered ... and I liked that.

I sincerely hope that your newspaper can survive and flourish in these days of the Internet and declining daily sales at the newsstand. I am here to support you economically and to remind you and the community you serve that, here in the Big Apple, I want to support your idea of journalistic independence from the rest.

Also, whenever I visit your website, I make sure to click on your advertisers and check them out and urge everyone else to do so, too.

A.R. Besson
Brooklyn, NY

Correcting the critique
Walter Jeffries of West Topsham wrote regarding my critique of the Ethan Allen Institute’s report on the purported fiscal impacts of our aging population (Vermont Guardian, letters, Jan. 12).

Among other things, I pointed out that more seniors are working past 64, which challenges one of the assumptions in the report. Jeffries stated that I’m “counting on people not being able to retire in order to continue funding all these social programs.” Not so. All I did was provide information overlooked in the report. I made no value judgment about it. However, while I may share his concern, that doesn’t mean we can ignore the facts.

The report asserted that Vermonters would not raise taxes. I pointed out that Vermonters may “consider raising taxes on the wealthy who have benefited from decades of federal and state tax breaks. If we do, a significant part of the argument falls apart.”

Jeffries characterized my position as arguing “that future Vermonters will be willing to pay higher taxes.” In fact, I never suggested that “Vermonters” should or will pay higher taxes; only that we may decide to raise taxes on wealthy Vermonters.

Jeffries misrepresented the statement in order to mislead people and scare them. It’s a common tactic intended to stop debate. Based on the recent election results, it appears that most people have had enough of that.

Doug Hoffer

I’ve got the rope, you find the tree
Isn’t it truly heartwarming to end the year with a good old-fashioned hanging. As an old-fashioned 60s guy, I think it’s like, so retro, man. Kinda makes me feel that 2007 will be even better.

You know, if we’re gonna hang folks, let’s do it right. I mean, there’s big potential here for a new trend to take hold, and not just for the entertainment value either. Think hanging fashions — how’s it hangin’, dude? Think all natural and organic hemp — a whole new market share.

We all know at least one person we’d like to see strung up, so, on Jan. 27, while everyone’s in Washington together, let’s get started.

This could be bigger than Woodstock:

“Hey, hey, whadya say ... Who are we gonna hang today?”

A nice organic lynchin’ — Who says capital punishment ain’t hip?

Takes all the angst out of who to vote for in ’08. And afterwards, you can smoke the noose.

Peter Buknatski

Pre-empt McCain
Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, has come out in support of Pres. George W. Bush’s escalation strategy, which Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards recently dubbed the “McCain Doctrine” (Vermont Guardian, Jan. 5). McCain stated Jan. 12 that leaving Iraq without victory would be catastrophic, leading to a loss of prestige, creating a lawless area for terrorists, and leaving Iraq vulnerable to neighbors like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and especially Iran. But other outcomes are possible.

It seems obvious that we’ve already lost so much prestige by invading Iraq that we could only gain by admitting our folly and withdrawing. We are at an all time low in world esteem.

As for the terrorist safe haven argument, it seems likely that more U.S. soldiers will draw terrorists. There were no al-Qaeda in Iraq before the war and who can say they will be tolerated in the future?

The third point, that other countries will take advantage if we leave, seems absurd. What country would try to control an Iraqi civil war after the most powerful military in the world has already failed? More likely, Iraqis will reach some kind of bloody accommodation with the help of the U.N. and Arab neighbors after we leave.

History has a way of resolving. Vietnam policy was a catastrophe for Pres. Lyndon Johnson and all the casualties, but time heals and Congress voted to grant Vietnam “most favored nation” trade status last year. The bombs for oil policy is also a catastrophe. The United States needs to admit mistakes and move on. McCain is the spokesman for a doctrine that should have no future.

Tom Doll