NRC members refuse to answer Vt. Yankee questions

By DAVE GRAM

The five members of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission refused to say Thursday whether they had voted in secret a day earlier on whether to ask the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Entergy Corp. against the state of Vermont over the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The comments came during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at which Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the committee, grilled commission members on their involvement in the Vermont Yankee litigation.

“My understanding is that there was a vote yesterday at the NRC on the issue in fact of whether or not the NRC should be involved in this case,” Sanders said while questioning NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. “Can you tell me what the vote was, Mr. Commissioner?”

Jaczko and the other commissioners declined to answer, saying it was a matter of litigation strategy and that they had been urged not to speak about the matter by the Justice Department. But the chairman reiterated comments he first made in March as the NRC issued Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension that he doubted there were grounds for the federal government to pre-empt state action.

“I don’t want to specifically comment on a matter that is in front of the commission because that is a privileged matter, but I see nothing that would tell me that there’s a pre-emption issue here,” Jaczko said in response to questions from Sanders.

Sanders aides had said Wednesday evening that they had received information that the NRC had voted in a closed-door session to ask the Justice Department to get involved in Entergy’s suit, arguing that federal laws and regulations governing nuclear power pre-empt the state laws that are threatening to shut Vermont Yankee down next March, when its initial 40-year license expires.

A senior NRC official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said the commission voted 3-2 on whether to ask the Justice Department to intervene, but he would not say which way the vote went.

full article – http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9NT8K780.htm

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