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Horns for the Advocate?; Casino Traffic: What Problem?; Staying Vigilant on Vermont Yankee

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Horns for the Advocate?

Regarding the Halos and Horns issue (December 26, 2013), I think you missed a good opportunity to assess yourselves as deserving horns for failing to offer sufficient coverage of perhaps the two biggest anniversaries affecting our lives: the 50th year since the assassination (and its coverup) of President John F. Kennedy, and 100 years of the interest-charging private Federal Reserve. These two big events are still shaking (or shaping) our world. Missing such significant events becomes part of a problem and precludes a solution. Thankfully, a new year dawns and opportunities will arise again.

 

Casino Traffic: What Problem?

Recently I’ve read and heard many news stories about the increase in traffic predicted from the proposed MGM Grand casino in Springfield.  Springfield and its neighbors, particularly Longmeadow and West Springfield, fear crippling increases in traffic volume and seek compensation from the casino developer, ostensibly to fund traffic mitigation measures.  

I wonder if these communities shouldn’t be thankful that their traffic isn’t much worse. If the manufacturing economies of Springfield and some of its neighbors, such as Holyoke, hadn’t collapsed during the last half of the last century, imagine how many more cars would be driven around the area, to and from jobs with middle-class wages and the myriad businesses those incomes could support. Worse yet, there’d be no target with deep pockets, such as MGM Grand, to foot the bill for the infrastructure needed to cope with the traffic jams that would result. Think how much worse the traffic is in the Boston area, where it is possible for so many more people to earn a decent living. Some casino critics seem to think we should punish MGM Grand for causing traffic problems, or even stop the casino to prevent them. Aren’t there always traffic problems where there are lots of jobs to go to and stores to shop at? Should citizens of Springfield be grateful that their city has so few of both? This debate reminds me of Yogi Berra’s famous answer to someone who asked him about a local restaurant.  Yogi told them, “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.” Is that what so many local people are afraid will happen to their communities?

 

Staying Vigilant on Vermont Yankee

On December 8, a panel of experts spoke in Northampton on the risk factors involved in decommissioning Vermont Yankee. On December 23, Vermont announced an agreement with the plant’s owner, Entergy, in which the state allows the plant to operate through the end of 2014. In exchange, Entergy has agreed to complete the entire decommissioning process once its decommissioning fund is adequate (an estimated 10 to 20 years). Priority, according to Vermont Governor Shumlin, will be given to putting extremely radioactive and dangerously overpacked spent fuel rods into dry cask storage—an estimated 7-year process.

The speakers on December 8, all of whom have been involved in decommissioning regional nuclear power plants, made the following point: The final year of operation of Vermont Yankee is the most dangerous year in its 41 years of operation. Why? Vermont Yankee is operating at 120 percent of capacity; risk of accident in the aging plant is very high; and extra care needs to be taken in operating it through 2014. When a company announces its closing, worker morale plummets and the best and brightest start looking for other jobs. Further, where is the incentive for Entergy to fill work orders, to heed workers’ complaints about health and safety, and to spend money on repairs in 2014, when the plant is already losing money? The policymakers of Vermont and Massachusetts, the panel warned, must be alerted to the gravity of this last operating year and engaged in protecting their citizens from the risks of catastrophic accident. Citizen vigilance and activism in this last year of operation are needed more than ever.

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