Nuclear power: a true waste

Vermont is a green state in many senses of the word. Aside from the Green Mountains, the state has also long embraced alternative green fuels.Ironically, the state has also embraced one of the less popular, but more practical, fuels: nuclear power. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, located in southeastern Vermont along the Connecticut River, has been in operation since 1972 and still provides Vermont with nearly 34 percent of its electrical needs. Nuclear power, when well-regulated, can be an environment saver because it does not produce nearly as many carbon emissions as conventional fossils fuels. Unfortunately, Vermont Yankee may be causing environmental damage to the earth and water, rather than to the air. Recently, large amounts of tritium – a deadly radioactive material – have been found in testing wells south of the plant. The tritium was found in quantities more than four times what is safe in drinking water.So far, no tritium has been found in the Connecticut River or in the drinking water near the plant, but it is only a matter of time until they seep into these sources. The amount of power produced and environmental impact will both become large factors in the fate of the aging plant. On March 1, 15 towns in Vermont will vote on whether to close the plant or keep it operational. The towns have a tough decision: keep the plant running and risk effects from nuclear waste, or turn to other energy sources that may be even worse for the environment. President Obama has said that he is committed to building more nuclear plants to wean America off of fossil fuels. Also, the jobs of 600 plant workers are at stake in a time where jobs are scarce. It pains me to say we must give up such a seemingly perfect solution that employs so many, but nuclear power is a band-aid for a larger problem.If we transfer from using fossil fuels to nuclear power, we will also be transferring from fighting carbon emissions to fighting even more dangerous nuclear waste.Clearly, Vermont Yankee has played a vital role in Vermont’s power creation, but its reign must come to an end.Instead of investing extraordinary amounts of money in patching up or rebuilding a dangerous plant, Vermont and the rest of the United States need to invest in the future of fuels.Fuels that don’t poison the air we breathe and the water we drink can also be free to make.  For instance, 30 percent of Vermont’s electricity comes from hydroelectric plants in Quebec. Of course, it will be a challenge to replace such a large amount of energy with wind, solar and other truly green energies, but it is necessary to save what natural beauty and habitat we have left.Many Vermonters, including myself, fear that if Vermont continues along the nuclear path, it will stop being the Green Mountain State and start being the Green Toxic Sludge State.