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 Vermont News: Don’t Fall For Nuclear Fiction

OpinionFrom: Jane Newton

To the Editor,
The latest article in nuclear energy’s misinformation campaign is, once again, about the wonders of “reprocessing”, (or what is sometimes euphemistically and mistakenly called “recycling”), of radioactive waste. This strategy is aimed at quieting the fears of those who are opposed to the 20 year re-licensing of Vermont Yankee, an issue that the Vermont legislature, in the next year or so, will decide.

According to the NIRS, (Nuclear Information Research Service), “recycling” is a process in which nuclear waste can go places not licensed for radioactive materials and can then appear in everyday life, in “regular” garbage dumps, sidewalks and plastic toys.

“Reprocessing” of the 20 to 30 tons of high level nuclear waste produced every year at reactors such as Vermont Yankee, now that Yucca Mountain is sure to fail as a federal repository of all our nuclear waste, is now the newest buzz-word in the nuclear energy business’ propaganda campaign. We are to believe that old waste can be reprocessed into new fuel in a sort of revolving door cycle with ease and without becoming another source of grave danger...

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Wrong!..according to the NIRC’s article “Reprocessing is NOT the Solution to the Nuclear Waste problem”. Besides creating a transportation problem that is being called the “mobile Chernobyl”, “the Bush/Cheney administration and its congressional allies are reversing over 30 years of rare common sense in nuclear policy. In the 1970’s it was decided that irradiated nuclear fuel, and the plutonium it contains, should be treated as a WASTE, not a resource, in part due to the catastrophic failure..of the only commercial reprocessing site to operate in the U.S. The site, at West Valley N.Y. is still not cleaned up, and the project cost is over $5 billion.”

Not only that, “reprocessing destabilizes waste”. The fuel rods are chopped up into a “highly radioactive stew” that is then processed to remove the plutonium and the uranium, leaving highly radioactive fission products behind that are far less stable than they were in the original “dry ceramic pellets” inside metal “cladding”.

Therefore, reprocessing is not recycling and “it is not possible to make the original uranium fuel again from high-level waste; reprocessing does not reduce radioactivity, and reprocessing does not reduce the volume of radioactive waste.

An important aside to all this is that reprocessing recovers even more depleted uranium and plutonium than is produced during the primary enrichment of uranium and the operation of the reactor , thus making reprocessing an added bonus to our already well-supplied military-industrial complex . This connection, though well hidden, is a another clue if anyone is wondering why on earth we would consider leaving future generations, for thousands of years to come, a legacy of a radioactive wasteland.

Jane Newton
So.Londonderry Vt.

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