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Vermont seeks to shutter nuke plant

Legislature plans not to renew license next year; MI residents near proposed nuclear dump worry

VERNON HILL, VT (UPI) | April 20, 2011

"We think it's a mistake to site anything that close to the Great Lakes that has the potential to leak and eventually reach the water"

—John Jackson, Great Lakes United

As Vermont lawmakers attempt to pull a nuclear plants license, conservation groups in Michigan are voicing their fears that a proposed nuclear waste dump in Canada will be too close to Lake Huron.

Owners of a Vermont nuclear power plant have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent state legislators from closing down the plant when its 40-year license expires.

The outcome of the lawsuit by Entergy Corp., owners of the 39-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, could set a legal precedent of whether state governments can claim a role in the oversight of nuclear power plants, which are regulated by the federal government, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

In 2006 the Vermont state Senate voted to approve a measure giving state lawmakers the authority to approve or deny a plant's license extension, the newspaper said.

Last year, the Senate voted to close the atomic power station near the Massachusetts border when its license expires next year.

The Entergy lawsuit argues federal, not state, law governs licensing and operation of nuclear power plants.

Legal scholars say the Vermont case could be significant in defining state and federal oversight of nuclear issues.

Boris N. Mamlyuk, who teaches administrative law at Ohio Northern University College of Law, says if federal courts uphold Vermont's right to intercede, then "Nevada, California, and other states will probably renew efforts to curtail the operation of nuclear power plants.''

While the legal issues are being sorted out in Vermont, conservation groups in Michigan say they are concerned about Canadian plans to build an underground nuclear waste dump near the shores of Lake Huron.

The proposal, still under study by Canadian authorities, would create a chamber some 1,640 feet underground for low- and mid-level nuclear waste, The Detroit News reported. It would be located near Kincardine, Ontario, which is about 55 miles east of Michigan across Lake Huron.

The waste would include such things as protective clothing, tools and water filters from nuclear power plants.

John Jackson of the conservation group Great Lakes United told the newspaper the potential for accidents that would affect the United States is too high.

"We think it's a mistake to site anything that close to the Great Lakes that has the potential to leak and eventually reach the water," he said. "This is stuff that lasts forever basically. And to think we could ever hope to contain something forever is just not feasible."

U.S. conservation groups have no power to battle a Canadian project, although if the Obama administration were to raise concerns, the International Joint Commission with its three U.S. members and three Canadians would be called upon to resolve the dispute.

Commission spokesman John Nevin told the newspaper it had not been requested to address the proposed dump site.

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