In Party-Line Vote, Council Opposes Anti-Nuclear Referendum Question

The Cambridge City Council voted last week to urge Cambridge voters to oppose a referendum question calling for the permanent closure of the state's two nuclear plants.

The non-binding resolution passed last Monday by a vote of five to two, with two abstentions. Proposed by Councillor Walter J. Sullivan Jr., it argued that Massachusetts energy supplies are already at critically short levels, and that the closure of the Pilgrim and Yankee Rowe plants will seriously threaten the state's existing energy production capabilities.

The resolution also stated that the cost of compensating the plants' owners for the "arbitrary" shutdown would be too heavy a burden on state taxpayers. The Massachusetts Taxpayers' Foundation, an organization devoted to cutting state taxes, has estimated that the compensation cost could range from $1.3 billion to $3 billion.

The vote reflected the political polarization among members of the council. While members of the liberal Cambridge Civic Association either voted against the resolution, or abstained, Independent councillors voted unanimously to uphold it.

Councillors Walter Sullivan, Thomas W. Danehy, Sheila T. Russell, William H. Walsh, and Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci supported the resolution.

Councilors Alice K. Wolf and Saundra Graham voted against the resolution; Francis H. Duehay '55 abstained, saying that "I'm not involved in this very complex, political issue." David E. Sullivan, who serves as chief counsel to the Massachusetts Secretary of State, abstained to avoid a conflict of interest, as he does on all state-related issues.

Councillor Alice K. Wolf opposed the resolution. "I feel the nuclear waste issues and the nuclear safety issues are not being adequately addressed," she said. "There is no solution for nuclear waste--there just isn't any."

Wolf said solar energy might provide an alternative for nuclear power. "I'm not an energy expert, but I do know that most of the utilities' money has been put into nuclear plants. The only way to address them is to close the plants," she said.

Walsh cited studies from the Cambridge Electricity Company showing that there would be an increasing number of "brownouts" in the future without more new energy sources. "Everyone realizes that you've got to look at [the energy problem more carefully," he said. "Locking the door, banning the idea is not an answer."

Russell said she only voted to oppose the plants because of the cost of power. "I just don't like the idea of nuclear power nearby," she added. But she said she thinks alternative energy sources, such as solar energy, are impractical.

And asked why he voted to oppose Question Four, Vellucci said, "Because I wanted to." When pressed for elaboration, he added, "I love to vote."