Rebuilding access to former nuke site could cost Rowe $800,000

Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2019 7:26:09 AM

ROWE — Town officials are seeking help to fund repairs on an aging roadway to the site of the former Yankee Atomic nuclear power plant, after engineers estimated repairs would cost $800,000.

The roadway – connecting Monroe Hill Road to the site of the dismantled Rowe Yankee plant – has deteriorated beyond repair and needs to be replaced, a recent study by Lamson Engineering Corporation found.

Selectboard and Finance Committee members are now crafting a letter to send to Rowe’s state and federal lawmakers, including Sen. Edward Markey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Richard Neal, Gov. Charlie Baker, state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. Paul Mark, among others.

“We hope that by reaching out to you,” the letter says, “you may be able to help us find ways to lessen the financial impact this necessary project will have on our town.”

Town officials say the $800,000 price-tag for a town of 370 is too high, especially as Yankee Road, a 0.5-mile, two-lane, dead-end drive connecting Monroe Hill Road to the site, is not typically used by townspeople. The road is mostly traveled by security guards, who watch over casks of highly radioactive spent fuel rods that are stored there for the indefinite future.

The road should be maintained as the site must remain accessible to emergency services, the letter says. Also, spent fuel casks may be transported elsewhere at some point, requiring use of the road.

“In any other situation, the town could vote to discontinue maintenance or even abandon the road,” the letter says. “However, the presence of nuclear fuel changes the circumstances and requirements of the infrastructure leading to the storage site. Letting the road crumble away is not a possibility.”

The site has two access points: one leads to Rowe, the other to Monroe, the letter says. The road to Monroe, now closed to general traffic, passes over a dam, which may mean it is incapable of carrying the weight of spent fuel if it is removed.

According to the letter, if the town pays itself to replace the road it will either need to use up reserves or borrow money – adding to an “already strained budget funded by an aging population.” And Rowe is already juggling some expensive projects, including broadband internet installation and upcoming repairs on four bridges and a culvert. The letter adds that residents are unlikely to approve a tax hike for a project they won’t benefit from.

“The last option is to secure funding from state and federal resources that understand the important nature of this dilemma,” the letter says.

At a Special Town Meeting March 12, the town will vote to appropriate $100,000 in Free Cash to pay for final design costs of engineering Yankee Road and another at Zoar Road Bridge over Shippee Brook.

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 280.


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