(Host) Expressions of mistrust dominated a public Meeting in Brattleboro sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last night.
The purpose was to discuss Entergy-Vermont Yankee’s application to extend its operating license by another 20 years.
The nuclear plant’s original forty-year license expires in 2012. VPR’s Susan Keese reports:
(Keese) The NRC has actually been in Brattleboro since Monday. Representatives have met with officials from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts towns within the nuclear plant’s ten-mile radius.
The federal agency also met separately with three citizens’ anti-nuclear groups.
Johnny Eads is the NRC’s project manager for Entergy-Vermont’s license extension review.
(Eads) “We wanted an opportunity to present to the people who live in this area the review process that the NRC’s going to be following over the next two years as part of the license renewal application review and we wanted specifically to explain to people how they can participate in that process. And there are like five opportunities where people can inject themselves into the NRC review process and have an impact.”
(Keese) Nearly 300 people attended the public meeting at the Latchis Theater.
Many of them expressed skepticism about the possibility of making an impact.
Local opposition was strong to Entergy’s recent bid to increase its power production by 20%. Final NRC approval for that request is expected any day now.
At the meeting, Pat Cavanaugh spoke for Nuclear Free Vermont. That’s one of the groups that met privately this week with the NRC.
(Cavanaugh) “How can there be real meaningful public participation when the rules to formally intervene have become so narrow, so complicated and the process so complicated, and so expensive almost no one can qualify.”
(Keese) Cavanaugh also complained that NRC rules bar many issues of local concern from being considered in the relicensing process.
(Cavanaugh) “How can you look us in the eye and tell us to trust that you will do a thorough job of protecting us when you don’t consider the repercussions of additional waste generation and storage as part of a 20 -year license extension.”
(Keese) Other speakers renewed the call for a more extensive safety inspection of the 33-year-old reactor. Some demanded local health impact studies before the plant’s life is extended. Many called for simply shutting it down when its license expires in 2012.
NRC officials described a review process that focuses on environmental impact and on non-moving components not included in routine plant inspections.
And they say they’ll continue reaching out to local people.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.