Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rowe Heats Up A-Plant Controversy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rowe Heats Up A-Plant Controversy

Article excerpt

ELLEN FOBERG is as unbothered by the aging Yankee Rowe nuclear power plant as her quarter horse 'Babe' who grazes peacefully near her country farm house about two miles from the plant.

"It doesn't bother me. It doesn't worry me," says the former Rowe selectwoman, who sits barefoot on her front porch.

Yankee Rowe, the oldest nuclear power plant in the United States, shut down last week because of safety concerns raised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). (In a separate incident, the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant shut down Saturday due to malfunction in a pump that carries steam. The plant will remain closed while repairs are made.) Residents in this rural western Massachusetts town with a population of about 320 have mixed reactions about the shutdown decision.

Ms. Foberg, for example, expects Yankee Atomic Electric Company's voluntary shutdown decision to be only temporary. Plant brings jobs

"I don't think it's anything permanent," she says. "We've experienced shutdowns every 18 months, and it doesn't mean {a loss of jobs.} It means doubling, sometimes tripling, the work force." She says the periodic shutdowns - involving extra maintenance work, testing, and refueling - generally require more employees and more work. "A shutdown doesn't mean devastation here," she says.

Many Rowe residents, like Foberg, appreciate the plant because it brings jobs and broadens the town's tax base; Yankee Rowe provides about a third of the town's property taxes. The tax money has primarily helped Rowe maintain a quality school system, says Jim O'Brien, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, but it has also been used for local road and bridge repairs and for snow removal in neighboring towns.

Despite the plant's benefits to the community, some are questioning whether the 31-year-old plant should continue to operate after the shutdown. Last June, a nuclear watchdog group - the Union of Concerned Scientists - petitioned the NRC and urged it to close the plant over safety questions regarding its reactor pressure vessel. …

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