Can Shumlin’s Arguments Against Vermont Yankee Pass the “Sniff Test”?

The State of Vermont and their Governor Peter Shumlin want to shut down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant.  Unfortunately for their cause, only the Federal Government, in this case the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the legal authority to regulate nuclear plant safety.  In March the NRC granted the plant permission to operate for another 20 years. Shumlin and his followers don’t like that.  They really want the plant shut down.  In fact, it will be a major political defeat for Shumlin if he looses this fight against the evil foreigners from Louisiana.  Plus, if he fails, he’ll renege on a campaign promise he made to all the anti-nuclear activists that gravitated to his cause. But they can’t shut the plant down for SAFTEY concerns because they don’t have that authority AND because the plant is undeniably safe.  You see, the NRC has a very structured and systematic process for determining whether or not a plant is being operated safely and Vermont Yankee passes with flying colors.  In fact, much to the chagrin of Pete Shumlin, VY consistently gets some of the highest safety marks of the 104 commercial reactors in the USA! So what does the state of Vermont say?  “Oh we’re not trying to regulate SAFETY!  We’re concerned over RELIABILITY and the ECONOMICIS of the nuclear plant.  That’s why we want it shut down!” I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll refrain from passing judgment on the legal virtuosity of Shumlin’s claims.  Instead, why not exercise a more basic test we can all understand: the “sniff test.” I’m sure Governor Shumlin knows what the sniff test is.  After all, he grew up on a dairy farm. One of several Internet dictionaries defines a sniff test like this: Noun sniff test (plural sniff tests): An informal reality check of an idea or proposal, using one’s common sense or sense of propriety. In the small town in Indian where I was raised we’re a bit more blunt.  We say if an argument smells like manure it probably is, and therefore it would fail the sniff test. So let’s look at Vermont’s claims that it would shut down Vermont Yankee nuclear plant because of economic and reliability concerns. First the facts of the economic case: in negotiations with the state, Vermont Yankee agreed to sell electricity to Vermont utilities at lower rates than it would charge customers in neighboring states. The plant employs more than 600 full time employees whose payroll adds $50 million per year to the local economy. Each year Entergy, the plant’s owner donates approx. $370,00 to local charities. If the plant is allowed to run for an additional 20 years it would add over $2 billion...

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