Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shaffer to Testify: Cheerful Wednesday

Anti-Nuclear and Nuclear on the Committee Schedule

Last Thursday, anti-nuclear activist Robert Alvarez spoke to the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee at the Vermont State House.  This Thursday (tomorrow), Arnie Gundersen will speak to them.

However, Howard Shaffer will also be speaking to the Committee tomorrow!  That's the cheerful news.

Well, it isn't perfect news, of course.  Alvarez spoke for an hour, and Gundersen is also scheduled for an hour or more. That's two hours.  Shaffer will have slightly more than an hour, according to the schedule. Still, Shaffer will be able to share some facts about spent fuel. His facts will counter the Alvarez scare stories.
Howard Shaffer

As of yesterday, it appeared that only Alvarez and Gundersen would be testifying to the legislative committee.  At that point, I was very annoyed, and I sent a letter to the editors of the local papers.

Today, I am very happy that Howard will testify.  However, everything in my letter remains true.

My Letter to the Editor: Why Alvarez? 

On April 18, Robert Alvarez spoke to the Vermont House Natural Resources and Energy Committee about spent fuel storage at Vermont Yankee.  I attended a large portion of that meeting and I also collected his handout.  The legislature is considering a tax on spent fuel.

Committee with Alvarez testifying
At the meeting, Alvarez spoke at length about the dangers of spent fuel. He advised that, for safety, much of the spent fuel should be taken out of the fuel pool and placed in dry casks.  He also spoke about taxing the fuel, and about decommissioning.

In other words, he gave the standard anti-nuclear talk.  Upon questioning, Alvarez admitted that the organization he works for is opposed to nuclear energy, and further admitted that he has no technical degree, though he has been a politically-appointed “policy advisor” in the Department of Energy.

My first reaction was to wonder why the Vermont legislature had invited Alvarez to testify.  My second reaction was to try to figure out what he was trying to say. Why did he talk about safety?  Has safety got something to do with taxation? The NRC regulates safety at nuclear plants. Hopefully, Vermont does not plan to spend more money trying to regulate nuclear safety and then losing court cases.  If the legislature was trying to figure out how to tax Vermont Yankee, it seems they need a tax expert, not someone who would tell them scary things about radiation in the spent fuel pool.

Why was our committee listening to these scare stories, with no engineer to testify in rebuttal?  Anti-nuclear activists claim the spent fuel pools burned at Fukushima, but they didn’t. The new NRC commissioner, Allison MacFarlane, visited Fukushima in December and walked all around the unit 4 plant.  She could not have done this if there had been fires and criticalities in the fuel pool.

And what does any of this have to do with taxation?

I would like our legislature to be more than a bully pulpit that gives anti-nuclear activists an opportunity to get press coverage.

Background about the Alvarez Appearance

Alvarez's statement: (It's the last pdf in the list) YesVY downloads
NEI blog post about his appearance: Vermont Yankee and the Ink on the Rubber Stamp
NEI  blog post follow-up, on his appearance: The Ink on the Rubber Stamp, Redux

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