Hundreds attend NRC’s Vermont Yankee briefing

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(Host) Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission got a clear message Wednesday night when they briefed the public on their review of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

More than 500 people packed into the Vernon Elementary School. Most were there to demand that the NRC conduct a more detailed assessment of Yankee’s plans to boost its power output by 20 percent. Many in the crowd pointed out that the plant is three decades old, and they argued it needs a thorough safety evaluation.

(Speaker) “Taking one of the oldest plants in the country and requesting a maximum uprate for it of 20 percent, a 20 percent increase in power. That doesn’t feel safe to us. The fact that the NRC has never rejected an uprate request, that doesn’t feel safe for us.” (Sound of crowd applause.)

(Host) The crowd was so large that police moved the meeting from the school auditorium to the larger school gymnasium

John Burke, a member of the state Public Service Board, got a standing ovation when he repeated the board’s call for a more detailed engineering assessment. Burke conceded that the federal government had control over safety issues. But he said the Vermont board’s was concerned with the plant’s reliability.

(Burke) “A number of nuclear plants that have undergone extended power uprates and have experienced increased outages or power derates. The problems that led to these outages may not have been safety-related, but they have affected the output of these nuclear plants. Our request is based on our obligation to ensure that such outages are unlikely at Vermont Yankee.”

(Host) NRC official Bill Ruland told the crowd that the federal agency had not yet decided how it would answer the Public Service Board. But he said that, for now, the NRC thinks its current level of review is enough.

(Ruland) “We’ve heard a lot of folks clamoring, that’s probably the right word, for an independent safety assessment. We recognize that. At this stage, our thinking is, okay, is that one at this point that the agency’s normal oversight and review process, we believe appears to provide information that coincides with the PSB’s concerns.”

(Host) Vermont Yankee did have a few defenders in the crowd. Vernon selectboard member Peggy Farabaugh said she didn’t believe the plant needed another safety review. And she said most people in town support the plant.

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