Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Tale of Two Meetings: Keeping NRC meetings safe for everyone

The Vermont Yankee NRC meeting: Bullying

Vermont flag
About four weeks ago, I attended the NRC decommissioning review meeting about  Vermont Yankee.  It was an unpleasant experience, to say the least. At the bottom of this post, I link to four blog posts about this out-of-control meeting.  The four posts include some shocking quotes from the NRC about how the NRC doesn't eject people from meetings, pretty much under any circumstances. Even people committing assault don't get ejected.

A few days ago, Dan Yurman of Neutron Bytes wrote a new post, based on NRC information: Closing the Civility Gap at NRC Public Meetings.  Yurman discovered that the NRC actually had a task force to improve its public meetings. The task force submitted its report in late January 2015, just a few weeks before the Vermont Yankee meeting.  (Clearly the report did very little good for Vermont.) Yurman looked up the improving-meetings report on the almost-indecipherable ADAMS data base of the NRC.  Reading the report, he learned that the NRC task force has a very good idea of what makes good public outreach, and more good ideas on why the NRC is failing at it.

The report talks about a "center of excellence" for training for public meetings, and outlines various types of training.  It does not, however, go so far as to suggest staffing or funding for this purpose. As Yurman points out, the report contains good ideas, but no real plans for carrying out those ideas.

I encourage you to read Yurman's clear and thoughtful post on the civility gap.  Brave souls can also go the NRC ADAMS citations ML15029A460, ML15029A463, and ML15029A465.

The Pilgrim NRC Meeting: Civility

Massachusetts flag
My experience is that the bullying is worse when opponents are a majority in the room.  Therefore, I was truly happy to read about the March 18 Pilgrim NRC meeting.  Many supporters attended: the headline in a local paper was  NRC: Supporters outnumber critics at annual Pilgrim performance review. It is a great pleasure to read that article.  If you don't have time to read about the good things being said about Pilgrim in the article in the Wicked Local paper, at least follow the link to see the faces of the people speaking on behalf of their local nuclear power plant.  The proponents include men, women, young people, old people, people of different races.

Also, if you pardon me saying so, the proponent's faces are open, kind and sincere. I could look at the pictures of the Pilgrim supporters all day. It comforts me to see their faces.

Alas, when I think of an NRC meeting, I see the shouting, hate-filled face of our most noisy local opponent.  I know that many nuclear opponents are good people, but in our local NRC meeting, the opponent group comes across as a mob scene. They cheer while their designated bully threatens and attacks people.  They may be sweet enough in private life: I don't know.  In the meetings, frankly, only the pitchforks are missing.

A Tale of Two Meetings

The Vermont Yankee meeting had two problems: bullies who knew they outnumbered the plant proponents, and an ineffective NRC who caved in to the bullies completely, refusing to keep order.

The Pilgrim meeting was different for one reason and one reason only: plant supporters outnumbered the plant opponents. Therefore, the opponents could not get control by bullying and shouting.  It the opponents hadn't been outnumbered, I think they would have tried to turn the Pilgrim meeting into the same kind of dangerous shambles as the Vermont Yankee meeting.  But they were outnumbered, and they didn't try.

By the way, it is amusing to read the comments on the article about the  Pilgrim meeting.  The opponents claim the reporter is "unfair" and that Entergy "bribed" people to come to the meeting by offering pizza. (Entergy did offer pizza.  Those meetings are right after work, and people are hungry.)  Opponents think that people will give up an evening and sit in an uncomfortable room in a long meeting….just in return for free pizza!

I am always amazed at the perception gap between many plant opponents and…well…..reality.  This gap extends far beyond the issues about technical understanding of radiation.

Keith Drown of Pilgrim commented on the Wicked Local article.  I will use his words as the last statement on this blog post.  Hail to Pilgrim!

Employees volunteered to attend the meeting and show their support for Pilgrim without coercion from the company. We live in the community and understand the facts concerning the safe operation of the plant. We not only work at Pilgrim, we also live in close proximity to the plant. It appears that some within the anti-Pilgrim groups are upset that we had a pizza before the meeting. They should be upset, the pizza was wonderful and they missed out. In addition to the pizza we also had cookies and brownies, not to mention a good time just being together. 


Earlier posts about the Vermont Yankee NRC meeting

I have a blog post about the NRC meeting, Bullying at the NRC Meeting.

Rod Adams posted about it and made a short, watchable video (25 minutes) from the four-hour video of the meeting.  His post Agencies should not allow creation of a hostile environment at public meetings includes his video and almost 50 comments, some of which are very informative.

Dan Yurman has an earlier post on this meeting, including his own important exchange with the NRC: NRC must do more to insure civility at its public hearings

Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues compares the actions of the nuclear opponents with the actions of those in the Old South, right after the Civil War, in denying free speech and rights to newly-freed slaves.  It's a good analogy, and no harsher than the behavior deserves: Free speech, Monty Python, and Civil War reconstruction: anti-nukes are not funny

1 comment:

trag said...

"The opponents claim the reporter is "unfair" and that Entergy "bribed" people to come to the meeting by offering pizza. "

It's too bad that there are not funds to hire some private investigators and discover how many of these "opponents" are being paid to attend these meetings. How do they have the time and energy to travel and attend all these meetings unless they are being compensated in some way. The fact that they immediately jump to the conclusion that supporters are paid, suggests to me that they got the idea from the (possible) fact that they, themselves, are being paid to oppose nuclear power.

We know there are paid anti-nuclear shills haunting the comments sections of web sites and they are clearly assigned, one to a website, for a period of time. Usually until they are found out and then they either change, or their invariably anonymous handle changes. It is not a stretch to believe that the live protesters aer also receiving pay.