Vermont Yankee Key Issue For Lt Governor Candidates

10/19/10 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP/Toby Talbot
The cooling towers at Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, Vt.
(Host) The relicensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is a key issue in the race for lieutenant governor.

Despite recent problems at the plant, Republican Phil Scott says he's not ready to close it down when its license expires in 2012.

But Democrat Steve Howard says there's no place for Vermont Yankee in the state's energy future.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) This is a race that has been overshadowed by the gubernatorial contest and it's a race where the two leading candidates disagree on a number of issues, including Vermont's future energy policies.

Republican Phil Scott was one of only four members of the Senate to vote in favor of Vermont Yankee last winter.

At the time he said he was disappointed that the debate seemed to focus more on politics than science.

Scott says he still feels that way and that's why he's calling for a comprehensive review of the plant by an independent agency. He's just not sure which is the best organization to do this job.

(Scott) "I still think the jury is somewhat out, although it's not a popular stance to take. I mean the popular stance is based on every thing we know - with the headlines reading another tritium leak - is to say, ‘Shut it down.' But I still think that we owe it to ourselves to understand what this means."

(Kinzel) Scott says he's ready to accept whatever conclusion the panel recommends.

(Scott) "The stakes are too high in either camp for us not to allow that to happen. This has turned into a very political, emotional debate. We should look at the science and facts and try to establish some neutral entity that can look at this and tell us what the truth is."

(Kinzel) Democrat Steve Howard strongly opposes efforts to re-license the facility for another 20 years and he says there's no need for another study.

(Howard) "Vermonters are counting on somebody to stand up and fight for them and to protect them. You're not going to do that with some commission that will hide you from the facts that are right there in your face. This plant has had two fires, a collapsed cooling tower, leaking tritium into the groundwater. It's a polluting plant. It's unreliable. And it's owned by a company that's lied to us. The deal is done."

(Kinzel) Howard says he's convinced that energy efficiency programs can help replace Vermont Yankee power after 2012.

(Howard) "The cheapest kilowatt hour in Vermont is the one we never use. And so we really need to invest in energy efficiency as the centerpiece of our energy policy. And we need to get on with what we should have started 10 years ago building locally renewable energy right here at home."

(Kinzel) The owner of Vermont Yankee, the Entergy Corporation, is running a large multimedia ad campaign to solicit support for the plant.  Entergy is hoping that the issue will be considered by the Senate during the 2011 session.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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vermont_yankee election_2010 elections
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