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Plans to clean up Vt. Yankee met with criticism from environmental groups

  • Vermont Yankee plant, with the original spent fuel storage pad marked with a rectangle. You can see the canisters. The building next to it has been demolished, where the new pad has been built.Second photo shows concrete being poured for the new pad,with canisters on the first pad visible to the right. Recorder File Photo

  • Rich Holschuh, a public liaison for the Elnu Abenaki tribe, stands on a roadside near the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, right rear, in Vernon, Vt. The Elnu is one of two Native American tribes who want a voice in the cleanup of the closed plant. AP PHOTO



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — When the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meets Thursday, the company that wants to buy and dismantle the nuclear plant will explain how it wants to restore the site.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Brattleboro Area Middle School.

The New York-based NorthStar Group Services plans to use a rubblization process to bury on site more than 1 million cubic feet of demolition concrete from the closed Vernon plant. This plan is seen as a way of saving millions of dollars in cleanup costs and avoiding thousands of truck trips on roads hauling the uncontaminated debris.

NorthStar CEO Scott State said the company plans to use crushed concrete as fill from a point “above the groundwater level” to about 5 feet below grade, and that above that, it would use “either clean soils or granular materials, depending on the location and intended area’s reuse.”

Using the debris as fill has already met with strong criticism from environmental groups like the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, which has called on Vermont regulators to insist on the same strict standards that were used for cleaning up the Yankee Atomic site in Rowe, Mass., as well as the Connecticut Yankee and Maine Yankee nuclear sites.

“It’s not at all what NorthStar is proposing,” said Coalition trustee Clay Turnbull. “NorthStar would leave one and a half times more radioactive contamination on site than what was allowed at the other New England nukes. No one has yet articulated a sound reason why Vermont alone deserves to be left with a dirtier site.”

Coalition consultant Raymond Shadis, who has likened what’s been proposed to “a capped landfill,” testified before the state Public Utility Commission last month that in addition to legal, chemical and radiological concerns, “Vermont Yankee site is a Native American cultural site with profound religious and ancestral implications. Establishing a demolition debris landfill on earth enriched with the blood and bones of several thousand years of Abenaki residence strikes me as extremely disrespectful. To proceed with tipping industrial waste concrete into the Vermont Yankee foundations while knowing what the site once was is, in my opinion, tantamount to a hate crime.”

Rich Holschuh, a public liaison for the Elnu Abenaki — a Native American Indian tribe recognized by Vermont that is intervening in the proposed sale of Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant to NorthStar — testified last month before the agency that although no formal archeological survey was performed on the site for the plant’s original 1972 Atomic Energy Commission license, there is potential for “deeply buried archaeological material” going back as far as 11,000 years.

According to the testimony of Holschuh, a Brattleboro resident, The Elnu are composed of descendants and family of the indigenous Abenaki, whose homeland includes parts of what are now known as Vermont, New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts, southern Maine and southern Quebec. The Sokwakik family-band used the area around the Vernon Dam and Vermont Yankee as an ancient fishing ground, and for agriculture.