Referendum Would Ban Nuclear Plants

Massachussetts will see a struggle over the future of its nuclear power from now until November 8, when voters will decide whether to shut down all of the commonwealth's nuclear reactors.

A referendum question on this year's ballot would, if approved, close nuclear power plants in the common-wealth because of the hazardous wastes they produce. Supporters say Question Four would make the state use other, less harmful sources of energy.

However, those who oppose the measure question the availability of those resources. If the measure were put into effect nationwide, the U.S. would have to import an additional $6 billion worth of foreign oil each year, said Bob Palmer, a member of the "No on Four" action group.

"We are not pro-nuclear," Palmer declared. He said his group contained a broad spectrum of people opposed to the measure, including environmentalists who fear for the ozone layer if other methods of obtaining energy are used.

The Massachussetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG), which supports the measure, disagrees. A spokesman said that "cheaper, safer, more reliable" energy is available and affirms that the state's nuclear plants produce too little energy to be "worth the risk" caused by their waste. The group says nuclear plants provide only 4 percent of the region's power.

Asked if the group was recruiting Harvard students for the campaign, the spokesman said, "We're recruiting everyone"--a sign of the tough battle yet to come.

Both groups agreed that the election is simply too close to call right now, but nevertheless, they disagreed on the likely outcome.

The "No on Four" committee plans to build its treasury by holding statewide fundraising events to finance a media campaign. This could very well put the effort over the top, group members said.

But MassPIRG is betting on the premise that "people are fed up" with the wastes building up at the power plants and with the utilities' generously financed campaign against the measure, the spokesman said.