At Senate hearing, Sanders questions NRC about continued operation of Vermont Yankee

Senators Assess U.S. Nuclear Safety
One Year After Fukushima

WASHINGTON, March 15 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today questioned why federal regulators extended the operating license for the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant within days of a disastrous meltdown at a similar plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Marking the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Senate committee that oversees the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a hearing on the slow pace of efforts to strengthen safety at U.S. nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

“License extensions continue without accounting for lessons learned” and “without taking time to examine the implications of Fukushima,” Sanders said at the hearing.

Sanders one year ago called for a moratorium on power plant license renewals in this country. Instead, the week after the Fukushima meltdown, the commission charged with ensuring safety at U.S. nuclear power plants gave Vermont Yankee a license to operate for another 20 years. The decision made Vermont Yankee – with a similar design to the Fukushima reactors – one of 71 U.S. plants to be granted extensions. In fact, no nuclear plant operator in the United States ever has been denied a license renewal by the industry-friendly federal regulators.

The Senate hearing occurred one week before Vermont officials had hoped to close the 40-year-old plant at Vernon, Vt. The state is appealing a decision last January by a federal judge who ruled that state lawmakers overstepped their authority.

“In my state there is a strong feeling that we want to go forward with energy efficiency and sustainable energy. I believe that we have that right. I believe that every other state in the country has that right,” Sanders said. “If we want to move to sustainable energy and not maintain an aging, trouble-plagued nuclear power plant, I think we should be allowed to do that.”

Sanders also questioned why the federal government sinks billions of dollars into federal subsidies for the nuclear industry. With a $15 trillion national debt, he questioned subsidies like taxpayer-backed insurance for major disasters and $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants.

“When it comes to taxpayer support for nuclear power there is no end in sight,” Sanders said.

Contact: Michael Briggs (202) 224-5141

Comments

  1. allie evans :

    keep on them like a pit bull, VY needs to close.

  2. Alex Barnham :

    Thank you Bernie…it is comforting to know that, even though the the NRC is deaf as a post, and the agenda of death is still alive and flourishing among the moneymongers, we will prevail.

  3. Dennis Pearson :

    “When it comes to taxpayer support for nuclear power there is no end in sight,” Sanders said.

    You could say the same for coal, natural gas, petroleum, geothermal, wind, biomass, hydro, solar and transmission/distribution as well. The fact remains that governments around the world subsidize energy because it is a matter of national security. Our government is not giving up on nuclear power like the Germans, Swiss, and perhaps the Japanese. The Germans have plenty of coal, the Swiss have plenty of hydro, but Japan is at a true crossroad.

    In the US, wind was allocated 2x the subsidies of nuclear in 2010. According to the EIA, wind was allocated ~$5 billion (42% of all 2010 government electricity production subsidies and support). As an American tax payer, I hope to see a return on that investment!

  4. James Leas :

    The NRC is a captured agency, heavily influenced
    by the industry it is supposed to regulate.
    Congress should end the NRC monopoly over
    radiological safety by providing states
    with the power to do what the NRC is far from
    adequately doing: regulate radiological safety.

    Now the federal court in Vermont is going much further
    than merely preventing states from actually
    regulating radiological safety at nuclear plants
    within their states. Judge Murtha’s ruling
    tells state legislators that they may not even
    consider and talk about safety.

    Judge Murtha’s ruling, if affirmed by the appeals
    court, has the effect of silencing legislators
    from what federal law allows them to do:
    participate with citizens in demanding that
    the NRC do a better job; demanding that Congress
    pass legislation to end all industry influence
    over the NRC; and demand that Congress allow
    states to shutter aging,badly managed, poorly
    maintained, obsolete reactors with serious
    design defects, like Vermont Yankee.

    The Public Service Board has more than
    adequate legal grounds to tell Entergy to stop
    operating the reactor on March 21. Even if
    the PSB takes that step Judge Murtha’s decision
    should be overturned, if not by the appeals
    court then by act of Congress.

    For any of these outcomes, sustained massive
    public awareness and action is needed to
    counter the grossly unfair influence of corporate
    money. The people of Vermont have a right to
    expect our elected political leaders to provide
    the leadership to apply that sustained and
    massive public pressure.

  5. Alex Barnham :

    I am reading over the huge amount of information available on the website of the Vermont AG and I find the tactics of Entergy’s lawyers to limit the information that can even be presented is similar to the attempts to silence the legislators. It becomes very obvious that all attempts to operate VY will eventually only happen in the minds of its owners. They are so far behind the tide of public opinion its a wonder they are capable of running anything that requires skill. Being in charge of Entergy must be like running a bulldozer…you just put it in gear and hang on. Flipping and flopping around like a dying monster and smacking anyone who stands near them makes them appear to be devoid of reason. They know the monster they have created is failing and yet they keep trying to make it work. If they weren’t so dangerous, it would be laughable.

  6. ion jean :

    Bernie is one honest lawmaker in a sea of slippery eels!

    We have acknowledged one on one this fact.

    Fukushima’s 5 out of 6 reactors are still burning over one year later…our soil is being contaminated with Cesium 134 and 137, Strontium 90, Plutonium 239 and those are just some of the highlights…we’ve already breathed in traces of noble gases like Krypton, Argon, Iodine 131, etc. That’s not including tritium laced rainfall and groundwater.

    They arrive in thunderstorms and blizzards carried by the Jet Stream from the Northwest, though lucky for Vermont the greater part of deposition is to our west…

    Vermont Yankee, a similar GE Mark I BWR, is running at half power ten days out with a decrepid, epoxied air condenser that needed replacement years ago at a current cost of $150 million, needs to end its days as the will of the People of Vermont have stated. We also need the NRC completely overhauled and have committee members such Dr. Helen Caldicott, Chris Busby and Arnie Gundersen…

    Or, we can have our children playing in radioactive playgrounds, popping radiation filled berries into their mouths which will give a lifetime dose to those most vulnerable.

    Tokyo is already at nuclear waste levels in their soils…

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