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Vt Yankee hearing turns heated - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt Yankee hearing turns heated

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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. -

A meeting with federal regulators -- designed to update residents on the safety status of Yankee Nuclear  -- turned into a protest.

As the minutes ticked toward 7 p.m. Wednesday night, it appeared the official portion of the meeting would never begin.

Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, exited and police blocked access through what had been the entrance-way to the public meeting.

A sergeant said they did so for the safety of the officials - though what threat the WCAX reporter posed is unclear.

When spokespeople did start taking questions, most in the audience complained about the long-winded and jargon-filled answers from NRC spokesman Chris Miller.

Miller said the NRC renewed Yankee Nuclear's operating license because its only had small infractions, and received the highest safety rating possible.

However, many in the audience questioned the thoroughness of those inspections, and say the rating amounts to grade inflation.

"If you want to find rust on a car, knock on the wheel wells, if you don't want to find rust on a car, knock on the roof," said Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

Pro-nuclear blogger Meredith Angwin said, "they have a protocol and they know what kind of things need to be inspected frequently and what kind of things can wait between inspections."

Residents across the state appear to be more evenly split than Wednesday's audience.

A recent poll conducted by Castleton College for WCAX, WDEV, and Vermont business magazine, found 45-percent  of folks support the state's effort to close the nuclear plant. 44-percent opposed that effort. Eleven percent of the people polled are unsure.

The State of Vermont contends that the federal agency overstepped its bounds by issuing a new permit to Yankee, without all the necessary paperwork in place.  Yankee argues its earlier certificates are still in effect. Regulators would not answer questions regarding that suit or others.
But at this point it appears the Yankee controversy will be settled in the court of law, not public opinion.

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