On the evening of Nov. 7, I spoke before the Vermont Public Service Board in Vernon in support of the continued operation of Vermont Yankee. What appears below is quite similar to the testimony I submitted in written form to the board, and from which I drew my remarks.
In the ’70s, I was one of the U.S. Army’s first environmental scientists working National Environmental Policy Act issues with Project Managers. I found that progress could be made if both parties would adopt four ground rules: Agree that both sides had legitimate concerns. Agree to listen seriously to these concerns and see the problem from the other side’s perspective. Agree to think outside the box. Agree to be willing to compromise. Employing these four ground rules, we were able to ensure completion of the mission and mitigation of environmental impacts in each of the hundred plus projects I worked on. I sense that some of these rules are not being followed in the VY controversy.
As Vermonters, we have always taken pride in being environmentally conscious. We keep our streets clean, we protect our parks and lands, we recycle, and we have some of the country’s highest air quality ratings. These are the same sources of pride that motivate both sides of the Vermont Yankee debate.
Following are some sources of pride that should be considered rationally from the pro Vermont Yankee side. Since coming online in 1972, Vermont Yankee has generated over 150 million megawatts of electricity and prevented more than 69 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering our air. Vermont Yankee’s clean operation avoids 2.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, as well as emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Avoidance of these harmful greenhouse gases while producing almost three-quarters of the electricity generated in state has helped Vermont achieve its second-place nationwide ranking for lowest electric power-related carbon footprint. In addition, Vermont Yankee has contributed significantly to Vermont’s number one ranking for “green” jobs per capita, according to a March, 2012 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nuclear power jobs, including hundreds at Vermont Yankee, are clearly defined in the report as green jobs.
We would lose these sources of pride with a Vermont Yankee shutdown. MIT Professor and head of the Dept. of Nuclear Science Dr. Richard Lester notes that Vermont Yankee’s closure would lead to significant increases in carbon emissions. If the 620 MW of power provided by the plant is replaced by natural gas-fired plants on the New England grid, the increase would be equivalent to 30 percent of the state’s total current emissions.
Vermont has always been an environmental leader. If we choose to close down Vermont Yankee, our leadership could suffer, as closing Vermont Yankee will lead to heightened use of fossil fuels to meet electricity demand.
CARLOS F. A. PINKHAM, PhD
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