Entergy seeks to block parts of probe report

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BRATTLEBORO -- Just days after Entergy promised to dedicate itself to rebuilding trust between itself and Vermonters, its attorneys filed a request for a protective order to preclude the release of certain information in a report of an internal investigation conducted by Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The report is the result of an internal investigation conducted into whether Entergy representatives lied to or misled the PSB, the Department of Public Service, Nuclear Safety Associates, which conducted a reliability assessment of the plant for the state Legislature, and the Public Oversight Panel, which was tasked with reviewing NSA's report.

Larry Smith, director of communications for Vermont Yankee, which is owned and operated by Entergy, told the Reformer he is awaiting clarification from the attorneys on what exactly will be redacted from the report.

Yankee has maintained that the incorrect information given to state agencies was a result of "miscommunication" over the interpretation of the differences between underground and buried pipes.

Sandy Levine, senior counsel for the Conservation Law Foundation, said the entire investigation is public information and should be provided to the public.

"No protective order is needed or warranted," she said.

Normally, when a protective order is requested, a description of the information an entity wishes to withhold is provided, said Levine.

But in the document filed with the PSB, it simply states that Entergy will waive its attorney-client privilege only "to the extent of information and material contained in the report of investigation that directly relates to underground piping ..."

In other matters before the board, stated the document, Entergy will not otherwise waive that privilege.

Yankee's director of communications, Larry Smith, stated in an e-mail to the media that Entergy is not attempting to seal the entire record.

"Despite interpretations to the contrary, the purpose of the motion was not to conceal information, but to make it public," he stated. "The company's motion before the Public Service Board simply defines the conditions for providing the full report by an outside law firm to the public without waiving the attorney-client privilege or the attorney work product privilege with respect to anything else."

A reading of the motion, stated Smith, makes it clear that it was intended to "facilitate, not obstruct, the transparency which the company has promised."

But Levine did not buy Smith's explanation.

According to the protective order request, Entergy is asking the PSB to allow it to keep confidential anything in the report not related to underground pipes that carry radionuclides.

"It appears that Entergy would like to select which information it would like to make public," she said. "That's not being transparent as they claim to want to be."

The CLF will file a motion in opposition to the protective order later this week, said Levine.

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At a recent press briefing, Entergy's vice president of operations, Mark Savoff, said the company is dedicated to rebuilding the trust between Entergy and Vermonters.

But, said Levine, it appears Entergy is requesting a "blanket protective order that allows them to disclose only what they wish to disclose. It's contrary to what they've publicly said they plan to release."

Smith said he is awaiting clarification but it might have something to do with personnel issues related to the 11 company employees who were suspended or reprimanded for their failure to completely inform state agencies about the extent of buried and underground pipes at the power plant in Vernon and the actions taken against them.

While only one person who was reprimanded was named, site vice president Michael Colomb, the names of the employees suspended were determined because their positions were listed in the press release announcing the action.

In late February, John Dreyfuss, the director of nuclear safety assurance, Dave McElwee, senior liaison engineer, Dave Manai, manager of licensing, Mike Netell, senior project manager for relicensing and Jay Thayer, the vice president of operations were all put on administrative leave.

On Jan. 29, the PSB announced it would conduct its own investigation into whether state agencies and the Legislature were deliberately misled by Yankee representatives.

Yankee was ordered to examine the entire record presented to the PSB to verify the accuracy of the information that it provided to the state, review its discovery responses to ensure that all inaccurate or incomplete responses have been corrected and ensure that all information requested by state agencies has been provided.

Yankee itself has maintained the incorrect information was a result of "miscommunication" and the interpretation of the difference between underground and buried pipes.

At the time, Entergy defined underground pipes are those that are below grade and buried pipes are those that actually come into contact with earth.

The issue came to a head when a buried pipe was discovered to the be the source of a leak of tritiated water at the site. Entergy engineers considered the pipe an underground and not a buried pipe because it is encased in concrete.

The leak was stopped in February and remediation efforts are now underway.

Entergy has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license of Yankee for another 20 years, from 2012 to 2032. In addition to NRC approval, Entergy must also receive a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board. The PSB was taking testimony for its CPG hearing when the erroneous information on the plant's piping was supplied.

Recently, the Vermont Legislature voted 26 to 4 against continued operation of the power plant.

Levine also said she was "personally outraged" that Entergy recently held an invitation-only meeting at Yankee to discuss work done to find and stop the leak, remediation efforts and its desire to rebuild trust in Vermont.

Representatives from organizations such as CLF were refused permission to attend the meeting.

Three armed security guards escorted an anti-nuclear activist, Ed Anthes of Nuclear Free Vermont, from the property when he tried to enter the conference room.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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