David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
A long-muted antinuclear movement in New England regained its voice today as more than 75 people held a State House rally to protest the region’s aging nuclear plants and the increasing stockpile of radioactive spent fuel rods at them.
The protest was held shortly before a State House hearing where legislators were scheduled to hear representatives of the region’s three nuclear plants – Pilgrim in Plymouth, Vermont Yankee in Vernon near the Massachusetts line, and Seabrook in New Hampshire -- talk about the safety of their reactors in the wake of the unraveling Japanese nuclear crisis.
“We have lessons to learn here," said Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch, a group opposing an application by Pilgrim to extend its operating life by 20 years once its initial 40-year license expires next year. “Spent fuel is being stored in our reactors in an unsafe manner.” Spent fuel rods stored at one of the troubled reactors in Japan caught fire and released radiation after last month's powerful earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and caused the plant's cooling system to fail.
Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim have designs similar to the crippled Japanese nuclear plant. Vermont Yankee received approval for a 20-year license renewal the day before the earthquake struck. Pilgrim is still waiting for approval, and Seabrook, which has a license that will expire in 2030, has applied for a 20-year extension.
Protesters held signs that read, "Safe Energy Saves Lives" and "Solar/Wind no Toxic Waste."
"It’s not a time to panic but it’s a great time to reconsider nuclear power’s risk and our own safety," said Representative Lori Ehrlich, a Marblehead Democrat. "We need to make sure we can safely coexist with the energy generation on which we depend."
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