In this picture, Dr. Jaczko is the man in the white shirt. To the left of him is Sandra Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation. The man with his hands in front of his face is Bob Bedy of the Safe and Green Campaign. Next to Bedy, the woman with long hair is Deb Katz of Citizen's Awareness Network.
What Happened at the Table
Others who were invited to the table were Ray Shadis of the New England Coalition (NEC), Debra Stoleroff of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, Ed Anthes of Nuclear Free Vermont, and James Moore of VPIRG.
Those Not at the Table
Just behind Katz and somewhat to the left is Howard Shaffer. I am sitting next to Howard and appear slightly to the right of Katz. We weren't invited to speak to Jaczko. Others who were not invited to the table included the pro-business group Vermont Energy Partnership, and various individuals (such as the state representative from the town of Vernon) who had asked to meet with Jaczko.
As Rod Adams noted in a post, the NRC explained that Jaczko met with the opponent groups (which the NRC called "citizen volunteer groups"), members of the media, and the licensee. I gather that business groups (like VTEP) and elected officials (like the representative from Vernon) weren't people he wanted to listen to. Or, alternatively, they weren't his target audience.
Not at the Table, But Noticed
I would like to publicly thank Ray Shadis of NEC and Chad Simmons of the Safe and Green campaign for making thoughtful comments to me. I do not remember their words exactly, but they acknowledged that Howard and I also represented citizens, and said that if they had been in my shoes, they would have been offended at being excluded. This made me feel better about sitting in the peanut gallery. I appreciate their kindness.
What Happened at the Table
Nothing much. In an earlier post, I predicted that Jaczko would not have much chance to hold the floor, and he would be interrupted. I was right. Jaczko got very little airtime. The opponents spoke for approximately an hour at the beginning of the hour-and-a-half meeting, and when Jaczko spoke, he rarely was able to hold the floor for two minutes at a time before being interrupted. Howard Shaffer's guest post on this blog pointed out this phenomenon, and so the Burlington Free Press also noted that he was interrupted.
The opponents made statements that I found quite interesting and basically naive. For example, James Moore said “It is a zero tolerance for error game here.” This statement makes a good soundbyte, but what does it mean? I can't think of a single human activity (driving, building a house, parenting) that can exist on "zero tolerance for error." Apparently, Mr. Moore thinks it is a reasonable requirement for a business or industrial facility.
In terms of understanding the consequences of problems at nuclear plants, the crowd was completely in tune with anti-nuclear propaganda and conspiracy theories. I have noticed that people who believe conspiracy theories always feel they are far more sophisticated than those who do not believe such theories. I tend to see conspiracy theorists as less thoughtful than average. They are unwilling to listen to complex answers if they can find a scapegoat instead. As Nuclear Townhall wrote:
The key moment occurred, however, when Jaczko made the casual and seemingly indisputable remark that “what the offshore oil industry is going through now the nuclear industry went through thirty years ago at Three Mile Island – except there was no off-site damage.”...... (The crowd objected) “What about the radiation monitors that blew out!” “What about all those cancer studies?” They are all steeped in the lore that Three Mile Island was in fact a health catastrophe that has been diligently covered up by the powers that be.
Jaczko Holds His Own
Perhaps the most important thing that happened at the table was that Jaczko didn't give in to the opponents. He stated that he heard them, that he had many of the same concerns, but he had come to different conclusions. He did not see any reason to shut the plant down immediately. He didn't see the tritium leak as a reason to shut the plant down. He didn't see the NRC as slow-moving about safety issues. He listened, but he didn't agree.
All in all, I felt I could take lessons from Jaczko. He was practicing a textbook example of effective Assertiveness, the kind of thing they teach in Assertiveness Training. As a woman fairly up in my career in the late eighties, I took Assertiveness Training through my company HR department. (Didn't we all take it, in the 80s?) When you are assertive, you acknowledge your opponent's position--without agreeing to it or conceding.
Jaczko was a master at this. His message was simple: I hear your concerns. I acknowledge your concerns and have some of the same concerns myself. I don't agree with your conclusions, and will not take action based on your conclusions.
Jaczko could have taught the assertiveness course I took. Though they didn't give grades, I knew I was only a B-minus-type student when I took the class. If I could study a videotape of this meeting with Jaczko, I could learn and improve.