Nuclear Regulatory Commission holding public hearings

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(Host) The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in Brattleboro this week in connection with Vermont Yankee’s bid to extend its operating license another 20 years.

The agency will hold public hearings this afternoon and evening. Yesterday it held an informational open house.

VPR’s Susan Keese was there.

(Keese) NRC officials expect the re-licensing review to take up to two and a half years. Part of the evaluation will consider the safety of plant hardware that was designed to last 40 years but now might have to serve for 60.

The purpose of this week’s hearing is to gather input on environmental issues that should be included in the review.

Richard Emch is the NRC’s environmental project manager for the Yankee review.

(Emch) “We’re doing a process called scoping.’ It’s environmental scoping which is helping us decide what the scope and depth of the environmental review will be and that’s why we’re here.”

(Keese) Emch says the NRC has a list of 92 environmental issues common in re-licensing procedures. Many are generic or the same for all nuclear plants.

Others are site specific, like temperature increases on the Connecticut from water discharged by the plant. That’s already being studied.

(Emch) “But what we’re looking for from the public, the people who live and work near the plant…. we’re looking to see if there’s any issues that they think we should be looking at that we’re not already looking at… and if there’s any information where they think we should be aware of that information.”

(Keese) The environmental scoping hearings are standard procedure. But Emch said Tuesday’s open house was a special effort to reach out to Vermont Yankee’s often vociferous neighbors.

One of the first questioners to show up was Deb Katz of the Massachusetts-based Citizens Awareness Network.

She wants the NRC to honor a recent California appellate court decision. The court ruled that nuclear re-licensing reviews should include the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Katz believes that means evacuation planning, and the storage of spent fuel. Neither issue is currently considered in the re-licensing procedure.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

(Host) The NRC hearings are at the Latchis Theater beginning this afternoon at 1:30 and this evening at seven.

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