2011-04-21 / Letters to the Editor

Shut down URI’s nuclear reactor

The recent situation in Japan gets me thinking about such situations that could develop closer to home. It has made me particularly aware of the nuclear reactor at the URI Marine Campus. This reactor, which is a two-megawatt research reactor, dates from the early 1960s.

I am told that modern advances mean that the type of research performed by this facility can be performed more safely, more cost effectively and with far less presence of nuclear material or products.

I note that other university reactors of similar vintage have been shut down because they are too expensive when compared to more modern research technologies and equipment. I also understand that the rule of thumb on nuclear reactors in that they have a maximum life span of 30 to 40 years.

In a time of very serious financial problems for the state, this facility is reported to cost $1.5 million in fiscal year 2011 rising at an annual rate of 3 percent. It is also noticeable that the managers of this facility have reportedly disregarded the 5 to 15 percent budget cuts that were supposedly applied across the board by the governor’s office. By 2012, I am advised that the top member of the staff of the faculty will be paid more than $160,000 a year.

But putting all of that aside, Jamestowners should think about the fact that, in the event of an accident or even a significant air discharge from the facilities stack, if the wind is blowing west as it usually does during the summer that the town and its most populated areas are directly downwind.

Far away from the damaged Japanese reactors, the people of South Korea are so concerned that many wear raincoats, carry umbrellas and don masks out of fear of a small amount of radioactive fallout. Suffice it to say that we are much closer to this (admittedly much smaller) potential source of radioactive fallout.

It should be obvious that there is no need for the residents of Jamestown to bear this completely unnecessary risk — it is time to shut this reactor down. The safety and financial benefits will be substantial and the loss, if any, very difficult to identify when compared to the options available for the technology involved.

We worry about overdevelopment at Quonset Point. We are concerned about LNG ships in the bay. Perhaps Jamestowners should give some thought to an out-of-date nuclear facility that is far closer than Quonset and far more a permanent fixture than a ship. This is one serious risk to the community that can be removed. It’s long past time for residents to tell the state to shut down the URI nuclear reactor.

William Harsch

Westwood Road


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