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March 31, 2010

Under Pressure, Feds Open Private Meeting on Vermont Yankee

Vermont_yankee_sections In response to mounting public pressure from state officials and the public, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission today reversed its decision to hold a closed-door meeting in New Hampshire with local officials from the tri-state area surrounding Vermont Yankee.

The NRC's decision to hold a "government-to-government" meeting in New Hampshire was criticized as a way to circumvent Vermont's open meeting law, and keep the media and the public from asking questions about the NRC's role in the tritium investigation at Vermont Yankee.

Vermont's congressional delegation late yesterday, along with U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH), urged NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko to open the meeting to the public.

The April 14 meeting is now being rescheduled to April 12 and relocated to coincide with a public meeting the NRC is hosting at Brattleboro's Ramada Inn.

The agency is in the process of contacting the officials to inform them of the scheduling change, according to an NRC spokesman. The officials are largely from towns within the 10-mile emergency planning zone radius around Vermont Yankee.

"The NRC has a long history of outreach to both the general public and state, county and local officials with respect to its regulatory activities and oversight of nuclear power plant issues. This single, open meeting will further the goal of providing open and transparent government," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The April 12 "open house" will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. at the Brattleboro Ramada Inn and will offer both elected officials and members of the public the opportunity to hear directly from NRC staff members on issues of interest at Vermont Yankee.

Entergy will also be at the April 12 meeting, said Entergy spokesman Larry Smith. The company's tritium investigation team will be on hand to deliver a presentation about its work and to answer questions.

Up until yesterday, the NRC defended its decision to hold a private meeting with public officials.

"We have held government-to-government meetings for state, county and local officials in the past involving numerous other nuclear power plants," Sheehan told Seven Days. "The participating officials have told us they have found them to be of value in enhancing their knowledge of plant issues and our oversight activities.

“Further, there are times when security-related information is discussed during these meetings," added Sheehan. "With the meeting closed, it allows for the discussion of topics in this area."

Along with the congressional delegation, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, a candidate for governor, also slammed the NRC for its previous decision.

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