West Bath, Maine
America's nuclear power industry, still shaken by the leak at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania two years ago, faces yet another foe: a pig named Baby Jane.
She belongs to Jamie Wyeth, son of American artist Andrew Wyeth, and a well- known painter in his own right. He dashed off a small sketch of her in pink ink , lettered the words "No Nukes" across her ribs, and added his valuable signature.
Then he donated the drawing to an art auction held here July 17 by a citizens' group called Sensible Maine Yankee nuclear generating plant at nearby Wiscasset. The auction helped raise money to bring in expert witnesses to testify against Maine Yankee at a prehearing conference Aug. 11.
In the wake of a statewide referendum last September, however, they may be facing an uphill fight. That ballot found voters supporting Maine Yankee -- the state's only nuclear plant which produces 30 percent of Maine's electricity -- by a 60 to 40 margin.
So Sensible Maine Power has focused on a coming Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearing, being held to determine whether Maine Yankee can expand the capacity of its spent fuel pool. That pool -- a 40-foot concrete cube lined with stainless steel and buried at the plant's seacoast site -- was designed to hold used fuel rods awaiting shipment for reprocessing or permanent disposal.
But the NCR has yet to build or license a commercial reprocessing plant in this country -- or to find a suitable disposal site for spent commercial fuel. So Maine YAnkee's pool, originally designed to hold spent fuel for about two months, has not been emptied since the plant began operation in 1972. And unless the NRC allows the company to increase the capacity of the pool (by packing it more tightly with the rods), Maine Yankee spokesman Don Vigue says the plant will run out of storage space by 1987.
And that is just what Sensible Maine Power hopes will happen -- because the plant could not operate without a way to dispose of its hazardous waste. In an effort to broaden its base of support, the group is shedding the image of picketers who lie down in front of bulldozers -- the reputation for example, of the protesters at the Seabrook, N.H., nuclear reactor construction site. Instead, they are taking their case to the business and tourist communities.
John Newell, a former president of the Bath Iron Works Shipyards, told the well- dressed auction audience (few of whom spoke with a characteristic Down East accent) that Maine Yankee already has several hundred tons of spent fuel buried on its site."They are creating a waste dump right in our own backyard," he noted, adding, "It's not necessary, it's not safe, and it's not cheap."
And while Maine Yankee officials refute his arguments, more than 50 local artists agree with him. They donated everything from sandstone rabbits and wool wall hangings to seascapes and still lifes.
Aside from the fact that the lights were too dim to see the paintings clearly , and the 100 people in the audience were obviously not high spenders, the sale brought in $4,500.
"We did very well," said a delighted auction organizer, Eleanor Miller, the next morning -- although she noted that several pieces with high reserve bids found no takers and will have to be sold later through galleries. And Baby Jane? She went for $675 -- cheap enough for a Jamie Wyeth that just could become the newest b umper sticker logo of the "No Nukes" group.