Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting Ready for the Trial: Entergy Withdraws Email Request

This video was posted by Vermont Digger on June 3, 2010, at a Shumlin press conference. The two speakers are Peter Shumlin and Shap Smith, respectively the President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, and the Speaker of the House. These are key Vermont legislators. They are expressing their concerns about Entergy. All their concerns are with existing and possible leaks of tritium and strontium and cesium and...all kinds of radioactivity.

In face, there was only a tritium leak: Shumlin's statements about radioactive strontium in children's teeth is sheer grandstanding. (See note below* for more on strontium.)

A reporter asks about the NRC (about 1:30 seconds into the video), and Shumlin answers that in his opinion, the NRC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the nuclear industry. In other words, it is up to Vermont legislators like Shumlin and Shap to protect the people of Vermont from leaking radiation.

The Minds of Vermont Legislators

I have posted this ancient video because one of the key points of the Entergy lawsuit against Vermont is that the Vermont legislature based its assessment of the plant on safety, particularly radiation safety. Judgments of radiation safety are reserved to the NRC, not the states, by federal law.

Determining legislative intent is an important aspect of the litigation. That is: what were legislators thinking when they voted to keep the plant from operating?

To understand this intent, Entergy requested many legislative emails. Today, the Brattleboro Reformer reported that Judge Murtha denied Entergy's request for emails. The Reformer article reports that Entergy wanted ten years worth of emails. However, Entergy's request took place in a closed session with the Judge. I am reserving judgment on how many emails Entergy requested. There may be more information later on this subject. At any rate, Entergy will not obtain the emails it requested.

Did Entergy Need the Emails?

I am not a lawyer, and it is possible that Entergy would have found a fabulous smoking gun in one of those emails ("That plant is not SAFE, we must CLOSE it!") On the other hand, to my not-a-lawyer brain, the video above shows the same thing. The video is evidence that the Senate and House were deciding about Vermont Yankee on the basis of radiation safety. I mean, Shumlin and Shap say it, over and over. The claim they have to do something about the radiation leaks (and possible leaks and leaks of material that never actually leaked) from this plant. They have to do it, not the NRC.

Shumlin wasn't hiding his motivations. Neither was Shap Smith. If Judge Murtha just watches this five-minute video of our two leading Vermont legislators, it's probably as good as all the emails in the world. And shorter, too.


* More about Strontium

Right at the source of the leak, some strontium was found in soil. About two pick-up trucks of soil contaminated with strontium was removed from that spot and disposed in a low-level waste repository. Right around the leak, the water may have carried a small amount of particulate that never got very far: the soil acted as a filter, catching the particulate. Or the water may have carried a small amount of dissolved strontium that was quickly caught by the clay minerals of the soil, the soil again acting as a filter. At any rate, there was no further strontium detected further away in the soil, and none was ever detected in any well-water on site.

Shumlin and Smith speak as if the groundwater was contaminated with strontium and unsafe for children. This just was not so. There was never any strontium found in well-water. These claims are Shumlin and Smith drawing ignorant conclusions about radiation safety. The short description of their actions is "grandstanding."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Over the years, and in particular, in the last couple of years, as I've been trying to learn about the *truth* about the hazards and opportunities of nuclear power, I've made an observation:

It seems to me most anti-nuclear politicians and activists, just don't have a very strong commitment to truth. That's not to say they are all *liars*. There's a bit of a distinction to be made here - it's simply that they take a very small piece of the truth, and "run away" with it, instead of trying to delve in deeper and understand the *whole* truth.

Small quantities of weakly radioactive tritium, and a small quantity of strontium in a tiny parcel of soil on the plant property become a massive leak of "highly radioactive material".

The mentality of these people seems to be "nuclear material is radiaoactive; radiation in some cases can be dangerous in high quantities; I don't want to learn any more than that - that's all I need to know to say that nuclear power just is 'too dangerous'."

I live in the real world, where it seems to me the truth is often complicated, and nuanced, and if you have a real commitment to truth, you try not to blow things way out of proportion, but to look at them as they really are.