- The disruption of a recent NRC hearing in Vermont by clown acts from anti-nuclear activists descended into bullying of speakers including a 60 something grandmother.
- Over at Atomic Insights Rod Adams has the full story including video from the hearing. Also, he publishes his email exchanges with the NRC about the hearing and its disruption by anti-nuclear groups.
- Why hasn’t the NRC taken a more proactive approach to prevent their meetings there from running off of a cliff? Like a measles virus, this kind of anti-social behavior could spread to licensing hearings across the country.
Over at the Atomic Insights blog published by my friend and colleague Rod Adams is an important post on the subject of civility at public hearings held by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At a recent hearing on the closure on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, the NRC lost control of the meeting allowing a rough group of clowns to disrupt the meeting.
Adams documents the disruptions, including video from the meeting, and then publishes the email responses from the NRC to his inquiries about the issue. It is well worth your time to read Rod’s report.
Things also took a darker turn at this meeting as one of the activists reportedly bullied Meredith Angwin, the publisher of the nuclear energy blog Yes Vermont Yankee. Ms. Angwin, for those of you who do not know her, is in her late 60s.
The fact that anti-nuclear activists bullied a 60 something grandmother to make their point deserves a swift response. One of them threatened her saying “your next Meredith.” The NRC had plenty of people at that meeting. Why didn’t they act to stop this bullying behavior?
Angwin had a long and distinguished career at EPRI working on chemical corrosion issues so she knows her way around a nuclear reactor. Bullying her was clearly an attempt to intimidate an expert speaker and perhaps even deter her from speaking at all. To her credit. Angwin stood up to the bullies and did speak at the hearing.
Bullying behaviors rarely stop at verbal threats. What is to say that the next time these people get rev’d up, that the situation may descend into physical violence? How dangerous does it have to get in attending an NRC hearing before the feds will act?
What’s even more strange about this hearing is that it is about a closed nuclear reactor. While anti-nuclear groups might think they won this round, the fact is Entergy closed the Vermont Yankee reactor, which still had 18 years to run on its NRC license, because the record low price of natural gas made it unprofitable to continue to operate the plant. No business is in the business of racking up continued losses.
So why are anti-nuclear groups bringing their version of guerrilla theater to a government hearing? Is it a case of wanting to pitch fork the dead?
When I first heard about this bizarre session, like Rod Adams I emailed the NRC Office of Public Affairs to ask for an explanation. Eliot Brenner, who heads it has long experience at the NRC, and he understands the environment in which the agency lives. He told me this:
“I was at that meeting and Gary Sachs was not well-behaved at all, to put it mildly. Chip Cameron, our facilitator, tried to keep him restrained. One of the difficulties we face is that there is a pretty high hurdle in Vermont for throwing some one out of a meeting.”
“I will forward this information to the folks who run the meetings so they are aware. I am acquainted with Meredith Angwin, at least by phone, and did not realize she was at the meeting. I would have enjoyed speaking with her.”
I wrote back to Brenner . . .
” I realize that an NRC meeting in Vermont over the closure of the reactor is a highly charged environment.
I chaired the planning commission in Idaho Falls, ID, for two years and served on that body for seven years. There were plenty of times we had people who were not well-behaved. Invoking police powers was more of a threat than a reality, but it did cool some folks down.
In the case of a committed activist, a night in jail for a misdemeanor charge becomes a badge of honor so the threat of being hauled off by the cops, and the exercise of it, can backfire.”
What surprises me about all the noise is that the anti-nukes won in Vermont, though not, for the most part, because of their efforts. Entergy recouped their investment in the plant a long time ago. Once it was no longer a cash cow, due to changes in rates and the competitive effects of low gas price, they walked away.
So I remain puzzled by all the turmoil over a closed reactor. The NRC is caught in the middle.
NRC hearings are not grade school playgrounds. They are forums for serious business. If anti-nuclear activists want to appear in public as stand up comics, they should hop on a bus to New York city and sign up to present at any of the many free forums for amateurs.
The NRC needs to realize that if its meetings can be disrupted in Vermont, that these tactics may show up elsewhere, perhaps at the next licensing hearing for Davis-Besse in Ohio or Indian Point in New York.
The NRC’s credibility is on the line which is why it needs impose rules of civil behavior on everyone who attends their meetings. Failure to do so undercuts the agency’s credibility and its claim of fairness and impartiality in considering the views of diverse public opinion.
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