Rutland (Vt.) Herald, January 9, 2008
REGULATION IS NO GUARANTEE
[Rachel's introduction: When we have a perfectly good strategy for dealing with dangerous technology (the precautionary principle), why don't otherwise sane elected representatives, senators, and governors invoke it?]
By Bill Pearson, Brattleboro
Stephen Wark, director of consumer affairs and public information for the Department of Public Service, recently defended his department's "strong record" of regulatory oversight of Vermont Yankee, claiming that this record is "beyond reproach." But regulatory oversight is necessarily constrained by what those regulations are.
They have to do with how much Vermont Yankee can raise the temperature of the Connecticut River, for example, or how many millirems of radiation are permitted to bombard elementary schools, or whether governors in adjoining states have a voice in demanding independent safety assessments. Also, whether Wackenhut security guards can nap on the job, or how many cracks are allowed in steam dryers, or how many of Vermont Yankee's numerous effluent discharge points into the Connecticut River need to be monitored for radioactive isotopes, or how a 20-year operating license extension would affect dwarf wedge mussels, brook floaters, rattlebox, and puritan tiger beetles.
Regulations, in other words, while necessary, can be hotly debated by all sides ad nauseum and serve to divert attention from more fundamental concerns.
For example, shouldn't citizens (and citizen advocacy groups) who stand to lose property, livelihoods, and even their lives in the event of a catastrophic accident at Vermont Yankee have a voice at least equal to that of a multi-billion-dollar out-of-state corporation intent primarily on maximizing its profits?
When we have a perfectly good strategy for dealing with dangerous technology (the precautionary principle), why don't otherwise sane elected representatives, senators, and governors invoke it?
Aren't residents entitled to truthful information about Vermont Yankee's routine low-level radiological emissions? What isotopes, what half-lives, what potential damage to tissues, cells, and DNA; what risk of cancers, leukemia, birth defects, immune and endocrine system disorders? And please explain why Vermont Yankee spokesmen constantly proclaim that Vermont Yankee's ionizing radiation emissions are safe when the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 concluded that there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation.
If nuclear energy is safe, why do insurance companies refuse to insure against losses from nuclear accidents?
If evacuation plans are not designed to protect 100 percent of the affected population regardless of weather conditions or time of day, isn't there an unconscionable moral dilemma involved?
Why hasn't a nuclear power plant been built in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979? Maybe Wall Street knows better than to finance them.
The Vermont Department of Public Service and the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel are charged with ensuring the public's health and safety. Focusing only on regulatory oversight won't get the job done.
Copyright 2008 Rutland Herald