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Massena supervisor backs away from nuclear-plant plans

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MASSENA — Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray no longer is pursuing a Massena nuclear power plant, but Mayor James F. Hidy is.

Mr. Gray said he is “taking a step back” from siting a nuclear plant somewhere in the area. In January 2011, he and Mr. Hidy held a joint press conference to announce their idea. At the time, they cited federally guaranteed loans and an ensuing economic boom as reasons to pursue the project.

The two Massena leaders then spent last year finding out more information about the project’s feasibility and reality, which Mr. Gray said “was not productive.” While still a nuclear power supporter, he said, he is not convinced of a Massena plant’s reality.

“If there is something to pursue, I’ll pursue it,” Mr. Gray said. “I don’t see anything to put an effort behind at this point. ... I smell in the political winds that nuclear power will not be happening in New York state anytime soon.”

Mr. Gray said his eyes have been opened to the obstacles facing such a plant. There is a lack of investors willing to make such a project happen, and an apparent lack of a national energy policy, he said.

“It’s about dollars and cents, availability of capital and willingness to invest in the face of strong, ardent, ridiculous opposition,” he said.

Mr. Gray said a sensational, biased media feeds into America’s nuclear fears.

Many nuclear-power critics are invested monetarily or otherwise in solar and wind energy, he said.

“They want everyone to believe nuclear power is the boogeyman,” he said. “I have seen nothing new in front of us and nothing new on the horizon. ... It would be extremely difficult to get nuclear plants built anywhere.”

Mr. Gray said he still supports Mr. Hidy in his endeavors.

“The mayor is more optimistic than I am and willing to put more effort in it than I am at this point,” Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Hidy had previously mentioned other obstacles, including an insufficient north country electrical grid to accommodate a plant and the lack of a market to buy the power. But he remained optimistic the grid could be updated and the power eventually sold to the Canadian market.

Mr. Hidy said not much has changed with his initiative in the last couple of months.

He opted against going to a nuclear energy symposium in Pennsylvania several weeks ago in the hope that he could attend one closer to home later this year.

Mr. Hidy said that he had no problem with Mr. Gray stepping back, but that he sees no reason to stop pursuing a nuclear power plant.

“Why not?” Mr. Hidy said. “It’s not costing the village anything to do it. ... I’ve got some other folks who are willing to stand behind it and pursue it.”

He also said billions of dollars in federal loans are still set aside for someone to build a plant.

“Joe’s a realist. I’m an optimist,” Mr. Hidy said. “We have to remember the monies are already there for communities that want to do it.”

Mr. Hidy said he planned to continue pushing forward with the idea on his own time.

“If something comes from it, great,” he said. “If not, there’s no money lost from the community.”

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