MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Activists released a new report Friday indicating Vermont has more radioactive nuclear waste per capita than any state in the nation, which they said underscores the need for approval of a climate change bill that would tax the Vermont Yankee plant.

Federal records compiled by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C., and analyzed by the anti-nuclear Citizens Action Network determined that the 1.3 million pounds of irradiated nuclear fuel that will be on the grounds of Yankee by 2011 amounted to 2.15 pounds of waste for every resident of the state.

The analysis found that South Carolina ranked second, with the equivalent of 2.03 pounds per resident. Elsewhere around New England:

• Connecticut, 1.34 pounds per person.

• Maine, 0.89 pounds per person.

• New Hampshire, 0.72 pounds per person.

• Massachusetts, 0.23 pounds per person.

Rhode Island does not have a nuclear power plant.

In all cases, the amount of nuclear waste is what will exist in each state as of 2011, according to an environmental impact statement filed by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002 for its proposed long-term storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Many states have significantly more waste than Vermont. Illinois, for example, will have 17.6 million pounds by 2011. But with a population of 12.8 million, it will have only 1.38 pounds per person.

“Having two pounds of this stuff for every Vermonter is not a distinction, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said study author Chris Williams, the Vermont organizer for Citizens Action Network.

A Vermont Yankee spokesman said he had not seen the report.

But Rob Williams called nuclear power an environmentally preferable alternative to burning coal or other fossil fuels to generate electricity because it does not emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

“Our plant and all nuclear plants in this country protect the environment and that’s by displacing the need to burn fossil fuels,” Williams said. “If this plant were to be replaced by a fossil fuel plant, it would probably burn about two-and-a-half tons of coal a minute.”

The federal government has responsibility for the long-term disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste.

Congress essentially designated Yucca Mountain as the site for it, but that decision has gotten caught up in politics and scientific disputes. If Yucca ever eventually becomes the long-term disposal site, it would be 2017 at the earliest before any waste is taken there, according to federal estimates.

Activists and others say it’s more likely the waste will remain at the nuclear energy plants where it’s produced.

Drew Hudson of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said that was justification enough for tripling a tax on Vermont Yankee for the electricity it produces, as the Legislature proposed in a climate change bill that Gov. Jim Douglas has said he’ll veto.

The tax is in place of the statewide property tax to pay for education.

“The truth about nuclear waste in Vermont isn’t pretty,” Hudson said. “And that truth is all the more reason why Governor Douglas should make (Yankee owner) Entergy pay their fair share in property taxes by signing H.520 into law.”

Williams said that was an anti-nuclear view.

“It’s just clear we may never find common ground with nuclear plant opponents,” he said. “But I think most Vermonters have come to realize the importance of keeping Vermont Yankee online to protect the environment by displacing fossil fuels.”

Home heating fuel dealers oppose the bill that would tax Yankee, also, because the money would be used to expand an energy efficiency utility so it could work to help consumers use less fuel to heat their homes.

Independent dealers already do that, said Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. “We have demand side management; it’s called service,” Cota said.

Since the 1970s, despite population growth, Vermont’s appetite for home heating oil has dropped by 53 million gallons a year to about 90 million gallons, he said.

“The building stock’s getting better and the way we heat our homes has improved,” he said.

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