Catch-22 in the Hot Zone

“…There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”                                         -Joseph Heller, “Catch-22.”

Catch-22 cover detail.

This week, Entergy Vermont Yankee’s Government Affairs Manager, Joe Lynch, evoked the logic of “Catch-22” when he suggested that it would be unwise to look for further contamination of the Vermont Yankee site because doing so might redistribute the pollutants to new locations:

“…Additional testing of polluted or potentially polluted areas at Vermont Yankee would ‘introduce the risk of spreading any potential contaminants.’ ”

When further questioned by ANR, Lynch offered the following clarification:

“For instance, he warned that ‘invasive characterization and sampling’ could ‘create new pathways for water infiltration’ – a problem that’ s already causing extra work and expense at Vermont Yankee.”

Lynch also noted that the plant has “active systems still in place” such as fire protection mechanisms that rely on underground pipes.

Oh, those pesky underground pipes! I’m old enough to remember (2010) Entergy insisting to the PSB that there could be no leaks in the undergone pipes because there were no underground pipes.

Eager to get shy of the exhausted milk cow, Vermont Yankee, Entergy is once again indulging in whimsy so as not to further complicate a potential deal with NorthStar. Entergy reinforces its argument against independent sampling with the threat that, should the sale fall through, VY will be mothballed and left standing for decades, laying the exposure risks associated with sampling, as well as the mess of decommissioning, on a future generation of V ermonters.

Here’s your legacy, Kids.  Enjoy and don’t forget to say your prayers!

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

3 thoughts on “Catch-22 in the Hot Zone

  1. Beautiful Sue,
    Thank you for bringing out the
    “no underground pipes here” issue.
    Also, for the record,
    Joel inch works for Entergy at both their
    local reactors, so I dont know if he is
    tecnically Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee
    employee still or anymore.
    That horizontal move from
    one reactor to multiple or to corporate,
    is how Entergy responded to” get these men
    outta here” – to 6 employees I think after the
    mis-speaking under oath and getting caught.

  2. Right on Sue! I fought these bastards for 7 years. They testified that there were NO underground pipes so they couldn’t possibly have the same leaks as other plants. Turned out The was a straight up lie and they knew it; or learned it when the pipes did leak.

    Now they don’t want more testing done. Right. No kidding and for the same reason. They know that this plant leaked some nasty stuff for a long time and that ground is polluted. What they don’t want anyone to know is how badly they’ve polluted the ground. Keep at ‘em Sue

  3. First, thanks to Sue, Gary and Bob.

    Here’s a note perhaps worth contemplating.

    Entergy’s current posture here is absurd. The plant is shut down and it’s about to be decommissioned. Anything that is disturbed by site characterization is going to have to be removed from the site shortly anyway: it can’t stay there.

    But now, consider if you will the work needed to characterize a site for a waste repository. Presumably, you’re starting with a clean site about which you have hopes that the geology and hydrology are favorable for isolating whatever you put there.

    At most, if not all sites, the leading cause of site failure is water migration: rain hits the site, sinks into the ground where the waste is buried, comes in contact with the waste and gets contaminated, and then leaves the site taking its radioactive burden with it. Certainly, every site model I’ve seen (and that’s quite a few) is based on precisely that presumption.

    If you dig holes in the site, you are literally providing a pathway for water infiltration, so you really do run into a paradox (catch-22). The only way to really understand the site is to fully characterize it – that is, dig holes — but the more you characterize it, the less likely it is to fulfill its isolation mission. This is especially true for the deep underground sites being considered for “spent” fuel.

    Years ago when I was working on the “low-level” waste issue, I had long talks about this with the Batelle team (which was characterizing the VY site at the time, but which also was doing the work at Yucca Mountain). What I’m saying here did not seem to be contentious in the least. Yet, of course, the industry and its knee-jerk supporters won’t acknowledge it for all of the world.

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