The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Greg Jaczko, has scheduled a one day trip to Vermont for today, July 14, 2010. As you may or may not know, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been under a focused attack by people who want it shut down at the end of its current operating license. (For more details on that attack, you can search this blog for “Vermont Yankee” or visit Yes Vermont Yankee. Meredith Angwin, the blogger behind that excellent site, is a Vermont resident, a kindly grandmother who is concerned about her community and future power bills, and a physical chemist who spent years performing analysis of steam generators after shifting her professional focus from the geothermal industry.)
While in Vermont, Chairman Jaczko has scheduled a meeting to address concerns. Apparently, the invitation list for that meeting has been limited. Here is the text of a press release issued by the Vermont Energy Partnership:
July 13, 2010
The Honorable Gregory B. Jaczko
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001
Dear Chairman Jaczko:
On behalf of our more than 90 member organizations and community leaders who include, among others, businesses and labor organizations that represent the biggest employers and energy users in the State of Vermont, we are writing to express our concern and disappointment that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied our participation in the stakeholder meeting on Wednesday, July 14.
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.
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.
Though we have repeatedly sought an audience with you during your visit, we are formally requesting that you grant us time to meet with you and senior members of your staff to speak with us and other business and labor leaders in Vermont. This will enable you to more appropriately gauge the issues surrounding the continued operation of this facility beyond the viewpoints of anti-nuclear activists with who you have a scheduled meeting tomorrow.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We urge you to reply favorably to our request as soon as possible so we can make the appropriate arrangements for a meeting tomorrow.
Brad Ferland President
Joshua C. Batkin, Chief of Staff
John D. Monninger, Deputy Chief of Staff
Diane Screnci, Senior Public Affairs Officer
Neil A. Sheehan, Public Affairs Officer
When I read this press release, I immediately sent an email to Eliot Brenner, the Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to find out if the Commission had any comment that it would like to make. I told Eliot that I would be sharing this release as widely as possible so that interested citizens could express their feelings or concerns on the topic. The NRC chairman frequently talks about the need for transparency; it is one issue on which we agree.
Here is the response that Eliot sent within minutes after sending my email:
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. To that end, he will be meeting with representatives of citizen volunteer groups, state officials, the licensee, and the members of the media.
Director, Office of Public Affairs
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Protecting People and the Environment
In one of my former lives, I was a small town businessman, a member of the Rotary Club and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. That business happened to be one of the more energy intensive operations in town; our electric bill could run as high as $8,000 per month for a little plastic product manufacturing enterprise with an annual revenue of less than $1 million. Our industrial electric rates were pretty low at about 5 cents per kilowatt hour (1996-1999); our supplier depended mostly on coal and nuclear. (Note: I was the General Manager, not the owner.)
I would be livid if an important visitor who may be involved in making a very important decision that would affect our ability to continue profitable operation of the enterprise and employment of the 20 or so workers decided that he would exclude business leaders from a community event. Take a look at that list of invitees – citizen volunteer groups (check), state officials (check), the licensee (check), and the members of the media (check). Where in the list are the other interested parties with significant community and legal standing – the people who run businesses that depend on Vermont Yankee operating as a reliable source of electricity at a reasonable cost?
PS – though this situation might have changed, a little bird also told me that the definition of “members of the media” used in the meeting invitation preparations pointedly does not include any bloggers.
Memorandum Report: Audit of NRC’s Process for Closed Meeting (OIG-10-A-14) dated June 9, 2010 – Note: this report identified several shortcomings regarding timing of advance notices, accessibility of closed meeting information to the public, and a clear definition on what constitutes a “meeting”. The Inspector General Report requires the Commission to provide information back on actions taken or planned in response to the recommendations within 30 days after receipt of the report.