After one of my op-ed pieces appears in the Valley News, I get myself emotionally ready for the replies in the letters to the editor section. I usually handle this sort of thing pretty well. After all, the negative comments are not really about me. It's all about nuclear power...
The First Letter Blows My Cool
Whoops. Actually, I don't always handle it that well. As I proved by reading the first letter that appeared, about four days after my op-ed ran.
Before we get to that first letter and what happened afterwards, let's look at that picture again. That first letter didn't discuss my article, it discussed the picture: A Telling Picture of Vermont Yankee. Here's the first substantive statement in that letter:
"You can tell it’s an old photo because both banks of cooling towers are working. One has since collapsed (in 2007) due to lack of maintenance and has never been repaired."
I read this and hit the roof. What-What-What! He claims that the cooling towers had never been repaired! Broken since 2007! What an outright...outright...outright.....
A cooling tower is repaired or not-repaired. It's not an ambiguous situation. Of course the cooling towers were repaired since 2007!
I called the editor of the paper and asked him to run a correction. Before doing so, he wanted more than my word that the cooling towers had been repaired. He wanted the date when the cooling tower repair was completed.
This date for the completion of the repairs wasn't mentioned in any article I could find, though I did find an article that implied that repairs were complete in spring 2008. I contacted the plant and obtained the repair-completion-date information that the editor needed. The plant sent me an email from one of the engineers, and they gave me permission to forward the email to the editor. That took care of the matter from my end. The Valley News editor, Martin Frank, wrote a correction.
Here's the correction that now appears on the Valley News website at the end of the "Telling Picture of Vermont Yankee" letter.
The following correction appeared in the Feb. 28 edition of the Valley News:
The cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant that collapsed in 2007 was permanently repaired and back in service by May 2008. A letter published Feb. 14 incorrectly asserted that the structure had never been repaired.
Whew! And a big thank you to editor Martin Frank for his professional handling of the situation.
The Facts About Vermont Yankee discusses the the tower repairs, the economic requirements for owning a nuclear plant, and more. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from Shaffer's letter:
"The third letter claims tritium is dangerous. So is arsenic in our drinking water — or not, depending on the amount. Drinking water is needed for life, but can kill you — as was proven by the tragic case of the marathon runner who drank too much. (Meredith's) op-ed never said that tritium in any amount was not dangerous, just that the tritium-tainted water that leaked from Vermont Yankee was not. “The dose makes the poison” is true of radiation, too."
Was It Worth It?
|Decision Tree |
Maybe yes and maybe no.
The letters claimed all sorts of things about the dangers of the spent fuel pool, the dangers of tritium, thermal discharge into the Connecticut River etc. (Only one letter even mentioned the economic contribution of the plant to the area, which was the gist of my op-ed.)
Yet the only thing that we countered was that the cooling towers were actually repaired. Did that matter?
I think it did. Most of the statements in the opponent letters are non-falsifiable. They are more matters of opinion or faith than of science. They provide nothing to test or to verify, though there may be something to argue about.
However, when nuclear opponents begin using incorrect facts, something has to be done about it. You have to get a correction in print. You really have to do so if you possibly can. At least, that's how I feel about it.
Extra Credit Reading: About Some Other Letters
One letter was the usual thing: Safety and economics are linked. It included the odd statement that: "Is it possible that the law regarding regulation of nuclear power was designed to present the illusion of their (safety and economic) separability in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of legal challenge by states and local communities?"
Well, that's one way of looking at federal-level safety regulations, I guess. My main response to this letter was "ho-hum, same-old."
Another letter was somewhat more annoying. Titled Misinformation on Vermont Yankee, it starts with "Defenders of Entergy’s attempts to continue operation of the controversial Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon are waging a strategic war of misinformation..."It goes on to talk about the dangers of tritium. The letter finished by explaining that the letter-writer had read the "small print" at the end of the op-ed. He discovered that: I worked for the nuclear industry in the past, I blog as "yes vermont yankee," and I am associated with the Ethan Allen Institute.
Gosh, I didn't think the type at the end of the op-ed was that small! Should I ask the editor to put that information in a bigger font next time?
Basically, once again, however, my response was "ho--hum." Though I admit I don't like to be accused of "waging a strategic war of misinformation."
At any rate, the accusation that I am waging a "strategic war of misinformation" is sort of....non-falsifiable.