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Reactor Referendum a Landslide As Residents Call to Move Nuke

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Editor in Chief

Nearly two-thirds of Cambridge voters near MITendorsed a non-binding referendum Tuesday calling upon the state legislature to move the MITnuclear reactor out of the city.

The referendum question, which voters to approved by a landslide 5,787 to 2,885 margin, will have little effect, said Sarah E. Gallop, director of the office of government and community relations.

Massachusetts is an "agreement state,"Gallop said. As a result, the state legislature does not have jurisdiction over operational issues with respect to nuclear plants. Only the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the power necessary to mandate that a reactor be moved.

David A. Hoicka '77, who proposed the referendum, said that "it's simply appropriate for MITto do what we think is the right thing" and voluntarily move the reactor out of Cambridge.

"I don't think it's responsible to put several hundreds of thousands of people at risk,"Hoicka said.

Hoicka said that he spent "many many hours in Central Square" campaigning for the measure as well as his campaign for state representative. Hoicka finished well behind the leaders during the Democratic primary on Sept. 15.

Gallop, who has received only three calls about the referendum, all from members of the press, said she hopes that the referendum raises awareness of the reactor. "We really would like to have the public more"involved, Gallop said, adding that members of the community are welcome to tour the facility.

MIThas "no plans" to move the reactor, Gallop said.

Reactor has superb safety history

In the past 15 years, there have been "no problems" with the reactor, said David O'Connor, the Cambridge director of emergency management.

The department meets regularly with MITstaff to discuss the reactor and how police and fire staff would react to any emergency. "Like any building, you can have someone run amoc you can have a wastebasket fire in a dorm or in the reactor,"O'Connor said.

He said that the city does not have an evacuation plan specifically for reactor accidents because the reactor, which is used for research purposes, runs at temperatures far below commercial reactors. "You can't develop a worst-case scenario that would involve anything beyond the reactor and the parking lot next to it."

The reactor is also very safe from potential terrorist attacks, O'Connor said, adding that he believes a nuclear weapon would be necessary to attack it effectively.

Meanwhile, Hoicka said that he will be talking to legislators in an attempt to convince them to urge MITto move the reactor. "Ithink it's appropriate for MITto discuss with the community for moving the reactor"to a safer place.

Newly elected State.Rep. Jarrett Barrios and State.Sen. Richard Travaglini, who represent the immediate area around MIT, did not return phone calls yesterday.