Critics see lack of info at VY meeting
MONTPELIER -- Critics of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant say the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission provided insufficient information at a recent public meeting on the plant's 2013 performance.
"We feel the public was shortchanged by NRC's shifting the emphasis of the meeting to general information on decommissioning at the expense of focused discussion about significant deficiencies in management and operations at Entergy Vermont Yankee," said Clay Turnbull, a trustee and spokesman with the nuclear watchdog group New England Coalition.
Vermont Yankee's owners, subsidiaries of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., announced last August that the plant would shut down permanently in late 2014, so much public attention has turned to decommissioning, or dismantling the reactor and restoring the site in Vernon, where the plant has operated since 1972.
Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman for the NRC's Northeast regional office, attended Wednesday's meeting in Brattleboro. She said the agency's presentation was designed to provide information the public wanted to hear.
"I think our opening remarks did cover both topics," she said, referring to decommissioning and the plant's 2013 performance. "Once we started taking questions, we did answer what was asked."
But she acknowledged that the presentation didn't cover all the findings from last year.
An inspection report for the third quarter of last year, from July to September, found several issues that the NRC labeled of "very low safety significance" but "more than minor."
Incidents included a diesel generator being run at about 130 percent of its rated load and workers being exposed to about twice the expected dose of radiation during one procedure.
In the radiation incident, the NRC said, "Inadequate work planning and control resulted in unplanned, unintended collective exposure due to conditions that were reasonably within Entergy's ability to control."
Turnbull, who attended the meeting, said in an email, "Nowhere in print, on a screen or verbally did NRC present the ten violations of 2013 to the public. The violations repeatedly point to management making poor decisions, poor project planning, and cutting costs at the expense of safety."
Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said the company didn't want to comment on the NEC concerns.
All the incidents listed were rated green, the lowest level on an NRC matrix rating problems of any significance. A green rating, unlike the higher levels, doesn't prompt stepped-up NRC inspections, Screnci said.
For a nuclear plant, though, Screnci said: "You'd want no inspection findings, none of any color."
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