Is Pitkin County a Nuclear Free Zone? | AspenTimes.com

Is Pitkin County a Nuclear Free Zone?

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Swaying aspen trees and pristine views may give Pitkin County a peaceful demeanor, but it’s not like we’re a Nuclear Free Zone or anything.

Pitkin County Commissioner Shellie Roy derailed an effort yesterday by one of her colleagues to have Pitkin County declared a Nuclear Free Zone.

Roy was the sole voice of dissent on a resolution introduced by Commissioner Dorthea Farris that would have expressed the county’s disdain for all things nuclear. But she spoke loudly and clearly enough to have action on the resolution delayed so it can be rewritten.

Farris wanted her fellow commissioners to adopt the resolution in advance of the creation of a national nuclear waste storage center at Yucca Mountain, Nev. She expressed dismay with the never-ending debate about what to do with waste from nuclear weapons production facilities and nuclear energy plants.

“We’ve been talking about this for 50 years,” Farris said.

She is particularly dismayed that the Yucca Mountain project is moving forward without a clear transportation plan. “We should leave everything where it is until we have a plan in place,” Farris said.

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She also expressed suspicion of the political intentions behind a plan that moves nuclear waste out of the population centers of the East to the West, where there are less people and political clout.

Finishing off her comments in support of the resolution, Farris stated, “I think we should say something, and this is my way of saying it.”

Commissioner Patti Clapper expressed strong support for Farris’ resolution, pointing out that the federal plan will result in moving 77,000 tons of nuclear waste from various locations in 39 states on its way to Yucca Mountain.

“And they have no idea how they are going to transport it,” she said.

Clapper said she has been surprised at the haste of Congress to endorse the Yucca Mountain plan without any real plan for protecting the American people.

“Why rush forward?” she asked. “After all we’ve been waiting for 50 years.”

Then Roy spoke up. She pointed out that some countries such as France rely on nuclear power for much of their energy, without incidence or worry. Roy said she was particularly dismayed with blanket disapproval of the nuclear option by the same people who bemoan the proliferation of coal-burning power plants.

“Nuclear power is not the bogeyman that we were all led to believe it is in the 1970s,” Roy said.

She pointed out that the Farris resolution was crafted after a similar resolution passed in Telluride in the late 1980s. That resolution is modeled after those passed in the wake of the near-meltdown of a nuclear power plant reactor at Three Mile Island, N.Y., in 1979.

Roy suggested that the commissioners schedule a work session with presentations by people with expertise on the subject of nuclear power. She also suggested that Farris tighten the language in her resolution to clarify that the county’s opposition is primarily to the transport of nuclear waste without a clear plan in place.

Farris agreed to reword the resolution before bringing it back for adoption, although it does currently focus on the question of transport.

The commissioners also agreed to try to have a few speakers address the issue before they make up their mind as to whether Pitkin County should really be a Nuclear Free Zone.