Energy Secretary Intends To Abolish Task Force
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Energy Secretary John Herrington said Friday he intends to abolish a special Task Force on Nuclear Energy established by his predecessor a year ago to help financially troubled atomic power plants.
The task force was created by now-Interior Secretary and former Energy Secretary Donald Hodel after President Reagan voiced concern last year that more than 100 nuclear reactor orders were canceled by utilities in the past decade.
″In its current form, no,″ Herrington said in an interview Friday when asked if the task force would continue its work.
″I don’t think you need a special organization to handle this problem,″ he said. ″It ought to be handled within the line organization.″
The task force helped persuade the Rural Electrification Administration to come up with additional funds for the troubled Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire. Recently it has been under fire in Congress for its advocacy on behalf of the politically controversial Shoreham nuclear plant on Long Island.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., charged in a letter to Herrington last month that the task force’s efforts ″constitute a direct violation″ of Reagan’s statement last October that the federal government would not impose an emergency evacuation plan for Shoreham over local and state objections.
Allowing the $4.2 billion Shoreham plant, the most expensive in the country, to operate now that it is completed is opposed by officials in Suffolk County, where it is located, and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Herrington and the Energy Department official who heads the task force, Gordon Chipman, on Friday denied Markey’s charge that it had tried to pressure the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on behalf of Shoreham.
″We’re not going to impose a federal solution, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to take no position on this,″ Herrington said.
Shoreham’s fate is equal in importance to the decision that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will make soon on whether to allow the restart of the undamaged reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant six years after its sister unit was crippled by an accident, Herrington said.
″It could be a terrible precedent that we’re setting with that kind of investment,″ he said. ″I support the opening of Shoreham; that plant totally replaces imported oil. If it opens, it’s a big plus for nuclear power; if it doesn’t, it’s a big negative.″
Chipman acknowledged that his office has ″talked with″ FEMA and NRC officials about Shoreham’s problems, but said the department has not tried to pressure them to rule in favor of the plant.
″We’re not twisting any arms,″ he said. ″We don’t have any leverage over those people.″