Jaczko visits VY

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The tour and 45-minute "allhands" meeting at the nuclear facility provided more than 300 employees, roughly half of the daily staff, an opportunity to speak about the plant's operating company, Entergy Corp., and other related questions.

NRC Public Affairs Officer Neil A. Sheehan said the topics were wide-ranging, from the status of the license renewal review - Vermont Yankee's current license expires in March 2012 - to how the commission develops new standards and regulations.

"He could not talk about the pending license before the NRC because that would be improper, but he did stress a number of times during the presentation [that] the best thing employees could do is focus on safety, not be distracted by external activities and that job No. 1 is safety," said Larry Smith, manager of communications for Entergy.

Smith spoke to the Reformer at the Vernon plant following the tour.

"Safety is the top priority for the NRC, and he expects it is for the licensees and everybody that works at a nuclear facility. That's what he's most proud of and said 'just focus on that and we'll do our job in regulating the plant,'" he said.

While on the tour, NRC officials met with its two resident inspectors to discuss the current issues surrounding the plant.

Smith said the chairman toured Vermont Yankee's control room, went inside the reactor building and walked to the cooling towers. "He had a good representative tour of the site with our employees at different locations to answer questions," he added.

Jaczko also visited an emergency diesel generator room and the excavated area that officials are searching for the tritium leakage source.

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The media was denied access to Jaczko during the plant tour. The NRC said the discussions included vital security information not available for publication.

While Jaczko was not available for comment while the Reformer was on site, Eliot Brenner, director of the NRC office of public affairs, provided a statement to the press.

"The chairman spoke with the staff about the importance of keeping their focus on the most important job, and that's safety," said Brenner.

According to Smith, the meeting was a "very straightforward, candid talk by the chairman" regarding high-level industry issues, some of which included "the fatigue rule" that the NRC imposed to make sure workers are fit for duty and have sufficient time in their schedules.

Jaczko also discussed the security modifications and upgrades that all plants, including Vermont Yankee, are in the midst of and "other industry issues that we're well aware of like submerged cables," he said.

Earlier in the day, Jaczko received an earful about the plant during a 90-minute roundtable discussion in Brattleboro. The nation's top nuclear official heard from Yankee opponents who are pushing for its closure as scheduled in 2012 or sooner.

Plant adversaries expressed safety concerns, including the leak of radioactive materials earlier this year, at the plant during the next 20 months until operations may cease.

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

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


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