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Turn the reactor off

Last modified: 8/25/2011 12:00:00 AM
The discovery that measurable amounts of tritium, a weakly radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen, have made it to the Connecticut River from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was no surprise. Tritium had turned up previously in monitoring wells drilled on plant property.

The discovery comes atop news that the much more radioactive isotope strontium 90, a byproduct of nuclear fission reactions, has also been found in Connecticut River fish. The latter isotope could be the result of the plant, fallout from the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Russia, or some other cause. The plant's Louisiana owner, Entergy Corp., denies that its facility is the source of the strontium 90, but in reports to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission company engineers admitted that the plant had released the radioactive isotope into the air.

The amounts of both isotopes were too small to be considered a health threat. But their discovery raises the question of whether the NRC was right to license the 39-year-old nuclear power plant to operate for an additional 20 years. We don't believe it was.

The state of Vermont, though it's being challenged in court, is in the unique position of having a say over whether Vermont Yankee can continue to operate after March 2012. Entergy is challenging the state in court, but Vermont should prevail. The threat posed by the deteriorating facility to the environment - and to residents in the Brattleboro and Keene region - is not worth the electricity it produces.


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