Town of Easton opens door to nuclear plant idea

In a move that revisits a controversy from the late 1960s, the Easton Town Board wants to explore th

In a move that revisits a controversy from the late 1960s, the Easton Town Board wants to explore the feasibility of putting a nuclear power plant in the Washington County town.

Town Supervisor John A. Rymph said Thursday the Town Board passed a resolution this week to create a committee to study the issue.

Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. purchased 1,000 acres of land along the Hudson River in Easton in the late 1960s, where it was planning to build a nuclear plant. But the project met with strong opposition and never was built, Rymph said.

He said the town’s resolution is in support of Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who issued a statement in late January saying he wants to have a nuclear power plant built somewhere in his district to jump-start economic recovery and provide a cleaner, cheaper form of energy.

“I would like to see one in the district,” Rymph said, referring to Gibson’s 20th Congressional District. “Nuclear is definitely the way to go.” In his opinion, Rymph said, a nuclear plant was a better alternative than “destroying the environment with fossil fuels.”

Rymph said Tuesday’s Town Board meeting was attended by about 50 people. More than half of them were opposed to the resolution, he said. The board vote was 4 to 1 with Town Board member Curtis B. Taylor voting against the committee.

Rymph said Taylor told him that he wasn’t ready to vote on the issue but wasn’t totally opposed to the idea.

Rymph stressed that the five-person committee, which would include two town officials and three members at large, would take a look at the pros and cons of having a nuclear power plant in the rural, agricultural town of nearly 3,000.

He said the committee would look at the issue, and, “if it’s feasible, fine; if not, end of story.”

Phil Ulrich, a retired nuclear engineer and a resident of nearby Greenwich, said Thursday he attended the Town Board meeting and spoke in favor of nuclear power.

Ulrich said he has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and spent six years in the Navy working in nuclear propulsion projects.

“The 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are not problematic,” he said. He said he has performed 100 reactor startups, including those on aircraft carriers.

He described Tuesday’s board meeting as civilized and rational with no emotional outbursts from the audience.

“I believe in the technology,” Ulrich said. “Nuclear power offers a tremendous opportunity, on an interim basis,” to the country’s energy needs and as an alternative to foreign oil, he said.

He maintained that it’s a myth that nuclear power plants require huge amounts of water. He said water is required for cooling the reactor but not in the internal operation of the reactor.

“It’s a small fraction of the water used in [non-nuclear] power plants,” Ulrich said.

Rymph said it is his understanding that a nuclear power plant would need a reliable source of water. But he said the plant would not have to be located directly alongside the Hudson River, as was the case in the 1960s plant proposal.

He said the plant could be located 5 miles from the river and still use river water.

The Saratoga National Historical Park in the town of Stillwater is directly across the Hudson River from the 1,000-acre site proposed by NiMo in the late 1960s for the nuclear plant. Having a nuclear plant with cooling towers across from the site of the 1777 Battles of Saratoga would ruin the historic view, according to historic preservation officials.

Rymph said the five-person committee has not yet been appointed. He said there is no set timetable and the committee will meet “as needed or at the request of the supervisor.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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