Vermont panel rejects some of VY critic's evidence

Tuesday February 26, 2013

MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Public Service Board agreed Monday to consider some, but not all, of a prominent nuclear critic's testimony as it weighs whether to give the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant a new state permit.

Plant owner Entergy Corp.'s lawyers objected to testimony from Raymond Shadis of the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition. In the end, the board said it would hear some of the points Shadis wanted to make, but not his testimony on the plant's effects on fish in the Connecticut River.

"In anything I've ever read about your qualifications, being a fish biologist was never one of them," board member John Burke said to Shadis during a series of questions the board used to examine his qualifications.

Shadis got his formal training in fine art, teaching and rehabilitation counseling, but has "engaged in self-directed concentrated studies in commercial nuclear power issues for the last 30 years," according to a resume he filed with the board.

The board, however, said it would consider Shadis' testimony on the environmental effects of mist from the plant's cooling towers.

Shadis cut his teeth in nuclear issues in Maine, where he lives and was instrumental in a citizens' push for a safety assessment of the Maine Yankee nuclear plant that helped lead to that reactor's closing in 1996. Also a fixture at state and federal hearings on Vermont Yankee and the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire, Shadis is known for an acerbic wit, once saying of a Vermont state regulator's nuclear knowledge that he "wouldn't know a neutron from a crouton."

Monday's decision came during the second-to-last day of testimony in a round of hearings expected to lead to a board decision late this year or in early 2014.

Vermont Yankee's initial license ran from March of 1972 to March of 2012. It won Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for a 20-year extension of its federal license in 2011 but Vermont lawmakers balked, passing bills that effectively blocked the Public Service Board from issuing the state permit the plant also needed.

Entergy sued and won an initial round against the state in federal court -- that case is now on appeal -- and Public Service Board hearings resumed last year.

The hearings have been marked by Entergy lawyers seeking to narrow the scope of evidence the board will consider as it decides whether to grant the state permit

Witnesses enter testimony in writing before hearings get under way and then questioned on those written statements.

But Shadis' appearance Monday was anti-climactic. After the legal arguments over whether he should be allowed in the case ended in a split decision, none of the lawyers had questions for him on cross-examination, so he offered no live testimony.


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