5th NRC Commissioner Objected to Immediate nuke power boost

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New England Coalition Alert

Dear NEC Members:

So why did NRC’s fifth Commissioner, Gregory Jaczko, object to immediate implementation of Vermont Yankee’s power boost? His letter of dissent is attached. NEC’s appeal for a stay of the uprate approval until legitimate safety concerns are investigated by the ASLB is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Jaczko argues that the NRC has no business approving complex license amendments which were never intended to be approved without a public hearing. Large power boosts, he argues, are an example of license amendments that involve significant safety hazards and require consideration of them. In the case of VT Yankee being granted the largest power boost ever granted by NRC, he suggests that the use of the “no significant hazards consideration” was inappropriate. Such immediate approval is only intended to be granted when the finding of “no significant hazards consideration” for a license amendment is a no-brainer, not when legitimate safety concerns must first be examined through an on-site inspection and months of hearings, or when these concerns are still pending before the NRC’s own quasi-judicial branch, the ASLB. Jaczko argues: “A no significant hazards consideration determination that could not be finalized without the staff’s safety evaluation report appears to meet none of the standards set by Congress or the Commission. It certainly does not appear that the determination was made with “ease” or “certainty.” The point missed in the press coverage that followed Jaczko’s dissent is that the concern he expressed is essentially NEC’s argument for a stay. In NEC’s appeal, Staff Technical Advisor Raymond Shadis pointed out the Commissions’ double standard in refusing Senator Leahy’s request for a thorough steam dryer examination because, as Nils Diaz said, “the Commissioners must remain impartial during the pendency of a case whether it is before a Licensing Board or on appeal to the Commission.” Yet NRC seems willing to abandon its professed impartiality quickly enough when the industry asks to crank up power before the jury is in on the intervenor’s safety contentions. As Shadis wrote, to allow the power boost to proceed before the ASLB has even heard the case “would deny New England Coalition effective redress and due process; and subject New England Coalition; its constituents and members living within the emergency planning zone of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, to the irreparable harm of unnecessary increased risk of accident and accident consequences.”

“The Commission must not abandon its stance of impartiality to grant such permission,” Shadis wrote. Although Jaczko concurred with the Uprate approval, he expressed serious concern about its premature implementation. In an unusual departure from typical NRC decisions, Jaczko appended his concerns to the Commission’s denial of the stay as follows:

“My approval of today’s decision should not be construed as agreement with the determination that this license amendment should be immediately effective. My concerns regarding this license amendment being immediately effective are being addressed in another forum.” The other forum is his letter, which is attached to this email.

So why did the NRC refuse the NEC’s request for a stay? Their reasoning is a monument to the tortured logic and twisted intention which Jaczko laments in his dissent. NRC states in its Memorandum and Order CLI-06-08 “It would appear that delaying the license amendment, as NEC requests, would harm Entergy without any obvious benefit to the public interest.”

Go figure.

Sally Shaw
The New England Coalition


(Sally Shaw is a member of Traprock Peace Center’s Core Group)

NRC Document: