Group calls NRC's meeting 'one-sided'

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BRATTLEBORO -- A statewide energy group is criticizing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for shutting them out of today's talks regarding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The Vermont Energy Partnership has sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko expressing its disappointment they were denied participation in today's roundtable discussions.

VTEP President Brad Ferland said his organization has repeatedly sought an audience with Jaczko during his visit to the Green Mountain State, but has been denied time to speak with NRC staff.

Jaczko will meet with groups seeking to close Vermont Yankee once the current license expires in March 2012, disheartening news to business and labor leaders wishing to gauge the chairman with their viewpoints.

"In our view, having a one-sided stakeholder meeting with anti-nuclear activists to discuss the future of Vermont Yankee during your visit to the state sends a negative message to supporters about the NRC's position on this issue who are looking to your agency for fact-based assessments, analysis and determinations that will affect Vermont's economic recovery and future way of life," wrote Ferland in a letter dated from Tuesday.

"Vermont Yankee's continued safe and reliable operation is very important to Vermont's economy. The plant directly and indirectly employs more than 1,200 workers in Vermont and is essential to keeping Vermont's electricity prices competitive and our air clean," he added.

Jaczko will host a discussion this morning from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center on Putney Road.

The roundtable talks are open to the public to observe, but discussions with Jaczko will include the seven groups expressing concern over the continuing operations at the nuclear plant.

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Following the public session, Entergy Corp. has scheduled a private tour of the Vernon-based plant for NRC officials, as well as a meeting with several hundred employees at the site.

Ferland said meeting with Entergy Vermont Yankee workers does not represent the broad base of interested business parties in the ongoing discussions.

Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee, is a member of the VTEP. The partnership supports the relicensing of the plant and considers its operation safe.

According to Ferland, the NRC has chosen to exclude Vermont's business and labor community from critical discussions about the plant.

"This is not the Vermont way and we call on Chairman Jaczko to make time to directly hear our concerns about why Vermont Yankee is important to Vermont during his visit ... this week," he said. "It's really just about balance, we feel like we should be at the table. ... It seems at one civil meeting, you could have varied options, but you could have a balanced discussion on Vermont Yankee moving forward."

Elliot Brenner, the NRC director of public affairs, said the visit with allow Jaczko to familiarize himself with the plant and the issues in Vermont with stakeholders and Entergy managers.

"We've been very appreciative of the broad interest and large number of meeting requests this one-day visit has generated. The chairman is looking forward to his visit and to hearing a diverse range of views," he said. "To that end, he will be meeting with representatives of citizen volunteer groups, state officials, the licensee and members of the media."

The Montpelier-based VTEP represents more than 90 organizations and community leaders. The group states on its website it is committed to finding clean, affordable and reliable electricity solutions.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.


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