April 6: New PSB Public Hearing Date

Vermont regulators want to hear what we think about Entergy selling VT Yankee to a new decommissioning company. It sounds good on the surface – the nuke would be taken down over the next dozen years – but the devil is in the details. The new company figures it can make a profit. We don’t want them cutting corners to meet a budget, leaving a mess for future generations to clean up.
The new Public Hearing date is April 6th. An informational presentation by the Dept. of Public Service will be held at 6:00pm. The Public Service Board will begin hearing the people speak at 7:00pm.
The hearing will be at Vernon Elementary School, on Governor Hunt Road (across the street from Vermont Yankee) in Vernon, VT.

For details go to our Decommissioning Resources page and our news post here.

Public Service Board notice: http://psb.vermont.gov/event/8880-rescheduled-public-hearing

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Our Goal: The Best Deal for the Planet

What follows is a summary of our thoughts as we prepare for the Public Service Board public hearing on April 6 (6pm, Vernon Elementary School, Vernon VT).

For more on our thoughts and to read our Principles for Decommissioning, go to our VY Closure & Decomm Issues page. We share them with you in the hopes that you will prepare and deliver your own comments to the Public Service Board.

Summary

The proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar Group Services LLC is the first of its kind. Never before has an owner sold a reactor after shutdown and before decommissioning. Vermont Yankee will be the testing ground for NorthStar LLC to market itself to the US nuclear industry as a firm that can make decommissioning profitable.

The Safe and Green Campaign neither supports nor opposes the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar LLC. Rather, Safe and Green supports the best deal for our region, the United States, and the planet.

The best deal would be one that is presented with full transparency to the public in language we can understand. It would include enforceable assurances that:

  • The site standards will be the best that can be accomplished for public health and the environment, not to fit a budget projected by NorthStar.
  • The storage of the highly radioactive spent fuel will allow for ongoing, long-term monitoring of radiation levels, using the best available casks, contained in a building or bermed with soil, and strongly guarded against attack.
  • The high-level waste will be not transported anywhere on our poorly maintained roads and railways   until the US creates permanent, safe, long-term storage.
  • The Public Service Board will conduct “extreme vetting” of NorthStar’s finances and the nature of its relationship with its decommissioning team, and that Vermont taxpayers will be shielded from the costs of any poor decisions made.
  • NorthStar and its team will be strictly monitored during decommissioning by an independent entity, not only the NRC.

Prompt decommissioning gives us the opportunity to act as the stewards of the radioactive materials created at Vermont Yankee, rather than passing the financial, environmental, and public health burdens on to our children and grandchildren. Ethically, this is the right time. Now, we need to ensure we hire the right people to do the job.

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Fukushima 6

In mid-March six years ago, the NRC told Vermont by phone that it would approve a 40 year license extension for Vermont Yankee, a General Electric boiling water reactor built in 1972. On March 11, the world began to see what could happen when 1970s General Electric boiling water reactors lose power, explode, melt down.

Please join Safe & Green on March 11 so our corner of the world does not forget this on-going tragedy. We will gather in vigil at Noon, Pliny Park (corner of Main & High Streets). Stand in solidarity with the evacuees of a region once as beautiful, beloved and productive as our own.

Please help us spread the word on the March 11 vigil. You can download and print this Fukusima 2017 poster to distribute, and share our Facebook event.  Our 2017 Fukushima update is here: 2017 Fukushima Year in Review

Letter by Ann Darling, published in the Hampshire Gazette.

Letter by Nancy Braus, published in the Brattleboro Reformer

Fukushima On My Mind, an essay by Mina Hamilton, composed after reading Safe & Green’s info on this page, published in Women and Life on Earth

Clean Technica recently posted an update on what is happening happening at the reactors: cleantechnica.com/2017/02/15/fukushima-nuclear

The latest we have seen on the evacuation is that those living in Iitate (the same distance from the Japan reactors as Putney is from Yankee) have been ordered to return home, or lose their evacuee subsidies. Greenpeace has done a report based on their readings in Iitate, which contradict the government’s findings. A recent video on Iitate is here. A synopsis and reactions from evacuees is here.

Fukushima is Still Melting Down: Thom Hartman’s interview with Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear (video).

The 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokoyo, add to the government and corporate pressure to hide the reality of what is happening at Fukushima.

This will be our sixth year of vigils and actions in solidarity with the people and environment at Fukushima. You can read about our past Actions here.

 

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Update: Public Hearings: VT 2 – NRC Zip

The Public Service Board announced that it will hold two public hearings, rather than the usual one, on the Certificate of Public Good for the sale of Vermont Yankee by Entergy to NorthStar Group Services LLC. The first session (April 6) is designed give the Board our broad concerns and questions about the sale. The second will be held in September, after much more specific information has been submitted to the Board. one early on, and another after .

The first will be Thursday April 6,  at Vernon Elementary School (across from Vermont Yankee on Governor Hunt Road). At 6:00pm will be an “informational session on the plant sale.” Public comments begin at 7:00pm.  Read more on VtDigger.org

‘Geoff Commons, the Public Service Department’s acting public advocacy director, has said the board’s review schedule “recognizes the strong interest that the local community and region have in all matters related to the Vermont Yankee plant” and allows for “a serious, in-depth review” of the sale.’

The sale is Docket #8880 on the Public Service Board’s website. http://epsb.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/27332

There is nothing in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission‘s process which says the public has the right to a hearing or meeting about the sale and the transfer of the license from Entergy to NorthStar — even though NorthStar will need to submit a new PSDAR (Post Shut Down Decommissioning Activities Report). The NRC came to Vermont in February 2015 for a raucous, standing room only meeting at the Quality Inn on Entergy’s PSDAR …. I imagine they are not chomping at the bit to return.

UPDATE: According to VtDigger.org, the NRC has agreed to schlep back to Vermont for another public meeting. No date set yet.

If you would like to read the filing from Entergy & NorthStar to the NRC, it is available but too large a file for our website; Entergy has it posted here.

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Notes on Nuclear Decomm 1.26.17

These note are my own and I can’t claim to any accuracy. My personal comments are in italics & I am subject to bursts of sarcasm.

Minutes will be posted on the NDCAP website, hopefully before the next meeting. Most presenters had power points but they have not been posted yet on NDCAP website. You can watch BCTV’s video of the full meeting. Go to our webpage, Decommissioning Resources, for all those links and the latest press. — Leslie Sullivan Sachs

NDCAP Meeting January 26, 2017

Who was there: 25 in audience including Haley, a staffer from Senator Bernie Sanders office, who often attends.  Three new state officials were in attendance: June Tierney, Commish of the Public Service Dept (replaces Chris Recchia, who was very active in NDCAP); Peter Walke, Deputy Secretary of Agency of Natural Resouces; Kate Buckley, Housing & Economic Development (who lives in Guilford).  

(Will they return or appoint minions to sit on the panel? We don’t know. June Tierney spoke a lot about how the public must be able to comment and participate at the NRC and PSB; perhaps she is making up for the fact that when she was general counsel to the Public Service Board, the Board tried to ban public from appearing at a VT Gas hearing – I imagine they were sick of the audience singing over the PSB).

 NRC presentation — by phone, 4 staffers

            No application for license transfer yet

            2 previous license transfers (Zion, LaCrosse) both in 2016. Took 1 year + 3 months for Zion. NorthStar & Entergy asked that this be done by end of 2017.

            License transfer definition does not include removal of non-radiated buildings or return of land to greenfield. Primary review is for financial “reasonable.” Contingency factor of 20-25% over cost estimate; must identify secondary source of funds if DTF is insufficient.

            30 day public comment period

            PSDAR will be redone by NorthStar; not necessary for new public meeting, but counsel is reviewing request.

            O’Conner, Irwin, Campany pushed for public meeting, panel vote on letter to NRC to support, with copies to other nuclear reactor host communities.

Irwin: this is a new industry – decommissioning for profit. Will the NRC have new rules or best practices? NRC response: we regulate for safety, not commerce.

Entergy decommissioning update with Joe Lynch, government affairs

            (I noticed a new logo on the Entergy power point: “We Power Life” Entergy Nuclear Excellence. Used to be photos of workers, and Safe Clean Reliable.  Entergy is closing Indian Point, Pallisades, and Pilgrim [least safe plant in the US per NRC] ; perhaps they can’t hide behind their workers and plant closures aren’t banners for reliability).

            Work on IFISI (new pad for dry casks) suspended for weather. North Warehouse down and its low level nuclear waste was offsite by mid December.

April – loading of dry casks will begin. (Not once did he say “moving high level radioactive fuel rods from fuel pool in to dry casks” … just loading, loading, loading.)

            New diesel generator and blast wall system (on 3 sides) put in

            Water management (again, just said water, never contaminated or radiated water or tritiated water… let’s not remind NDCAP members this is toxic )

                        – shipping 5,000 gallons a week in two loads

                        – 21,000 gallons total to date

            DTF ahead of budget and ahead of schedule

State update with decommissioning engineer, Tony Leshinske

            Public Service Board certificate of public good for sale of Entergy to Northstar is Docket #8880. (You can follow it here on the PSB’s nifty new website, which so far is indeed easy to use. While you are at 8880, count the number of LLCs … Also, see that this is NOT a Section 248 case (power generation)  like we are all used to from past PSB Yankee cases; it’s a mergers & acquisitions case.)

            Hazmat storage … sorry, missed it, something about state oversight.

            Briefing on water – Entergy wants 200,000 gallons to go to Idaho, going through NRC process. State filed questions about state sampling shipments before they leave. I think they said this would be the tourus water (part of the reactor).

            NRC Rule Making on ne decomm rules delayed from Fall 2016 to February 2017. State filed testimony.

            DOE & consent process – no one knows what will happen under Trump

            IRS – tax on DTFs? Or nuclear fuel storage? Unclear, state looking at it.

Panel & public questions & comments

            Holtec 100 system for dry casks – was do not fill until 5 years after use in reactor? Jack Boyle, Entergy decomm director: new and improved design using new metal with 10 times the heat capacity. Holtec has appliced for certificate of compliance for the new design, but not approved by NRC yet.

            Comment: it would have been nice to have blast walls around the dry casks, too.

Chris Willimas: Who paid for the full page ads by NorthStar & Entergy that were in papers around the state? Did that come out of the DTF? Lynch: Don’t know, I imagine it would come out of Outreach. I’ll get back to you. [A constant refrain from Joe, “I’ll get back to you on that.” Also, “You will have to ask AREVA” (or Holtec, or NorthStar) … is this what we have to look forward to, with NorthStar, AREVA, WCS, & Burns etal?]

Jeff Commons, deputy director, Dept of Public Service Public Advocate

            He will represent the public in Public Service Board #8880 on the sale

            Explained NRC public meeting vs hearing, and PSB hearing. Hopes PSB will hold a public hearing reasonably early to get a sense of what the public wants them to consider. He explained the PSB criteria for a CPG, including “fair partner” criteria.

Panel comments

            Campany – proposal for independent experts to educate NDCAP on the issues before the PSB

Public comments

            Clay Turnbull, New England Coalition – they will file for intervenor status. Time to let land at VY rest after 40 years of hard work. Comment to him by Steve Skibowsky, panelist – you might want to ask Vernon what it wants for its land; last time I checked it wasn’t NEC’s land. Clay – ask the Native Americans, then.

Kyle Landis, VT Attorney General’s office on environment

            Entergy sale & VY decomm is a high priority for new AG TJ Donovan

            AG will work with ANR, Dept of Health & others

            AG will review sale case and supporting Dept of Public Service as public advocate

            Will review / input NRC rule making on decomm

            AG’s office is available to help NDCAP

 

At that point I left the meeting.

 

According to news reports, after the meeting the panel discussed proposal to legislature to change membership of the panel from the 2 House & Senate committee reps to Windham County reps, and retain the Vernon Rep. Voted for, with state officials abstaining.

My comments: .   I have only seen the Vernon Rep. Mike Hebert at 2 meetings since Sept 2014 founding of NDCAP. This affects Senator Mark McDonald, rep on NDCAP for Senate Natural Resources Committee (which has been abolished/morphed into a new committee). Mark has been on NDCAP and before on VSNAP, strong critic with a lot of history.  Rep. David Deen of Putney attends all the meetings, either by phone or in person.

           Press coverage of the NDCAP Meeting

01.31.2017  Yankee sale calls for faster transfer of fuel (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

01.30.17 Proposed nuke panel shakeup irks Senator (Mike Faher, VtDigger)

01.27.17  VY to move fuel in spring (Mike Faher, VT Digger)

01.27.17  NDCAP wants public NRC meeting (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

01.27.17  NDCAP favors panel changes (Susan Smallheer, Rutland Herald)

 

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NRC & New State Commissioner at NDCAP 01.26.17

NRC meets with NorthStar, Entergy, Areva, and the rest about transferring the license on January 24th (for a presubmittal conference). 10-11:30 am at NRC HQ in Maryland. You can listen in and public comments will be taken at the end. For details, click here.

The next NDCAP meeting is scheduled for January 26 from 6-9pm at BAMS – Brattleboro Area Middle School – in the Multi Purpose Room. (Exit 1 off I91, right at first light, right onto Sunny Acres. BAMS is on the left). NDCAP = Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel. Public welcome. Three public comment periods are included. Briefly:

  • NRC Staff will give an overview of the ‘license transfer process’ which Entergy, the seller of Yankee, and NorthStar, the buyer, should go through.
  • The Public Service Board CPG approval process will be outlined by Entergy and state staff.
  • June Tierney, new Commissioner of the Department of Public Service, will attend. Her predecessor, Chris Recchia, attending almost all the meetings.
  • We do not know what approach the administration of the new Governor, Phil Scott, will take. NDCAP will discuss “future issues moving forward” at the meeting.

Details and full agenda are here on the state’s NDCAP website.

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Public Meeting on Pilgrim

The NRC will hold a public meeting in Plymouth on Tuesday, January 31, 6:30-9:30pm at the 1620 Hotel Ballroom in Plymouth.   Details are here.  The night before, there will be a workshop with Dave Lochbaum of the  Union of Concerned Scientist (UCS) and Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch.

NRC inspectors were on the ground at the Entergy reactor in Plymouth for two weeks in December and returned January 8 for a final week of inspections. One of their internal memos was shared by email with our ally Diane Turco of Cape Downwinders. (We heard through the grape vine that Turco’s email address was grabbed when the author typed ‘Diane’ – intending it for Diance Screnci, NRC pubic affairs officer).  The NRC memo said, among other things:

  • “the plant seems overwhelmed by just trying to run the station.”
  • “indications of a safety culture problem that a bunch of talking probably won’t fix.”
  • “The corrective actions in the recovery plan seem to have been hastily developed and implemented, and some have been circumvented as they were deemed too hard to complete…”

That got Gov. Baker to finally join the MA Congressional delegation and local legislators in a letter calling for Entergy and the NRC to hold a public meeting on Pilgrim’s safety. The governor will send a staffer, but other elected officials are mighty riled up.

It has been a scramble keeping up with the troubles at Pilgrim, there have been so many. We highly recommend this new, interactive, multi-part series by Chris Legare in the Cape Cod Times. Gatehouseprojects.com/nuclearpower/ 

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Indian Point Nukes To Close

It is official: Indian Point is closing! The State of New York and Entergy came to an agreement this past week to close one reactor in 2020 and the other in 2021. Both had been operating under expired NRC permits while Entergy applied for 20 year license extensions. For background, read this article in Forbes 01.07.17  and for details on the deal, read Riverkeeper’s post 01.09.17.

Starting with the closure announcement for Vermont Yankee just 3 years ago, Entergy has since announced the closure of Pilgrim (MA), Palisades (MI) and now Indian Point.

That leaves one Entergy reactor left in the Northeast: Fitzpatrick (NY). Those in the know suspect FitzPatrick was a bargaining chip in the deal to close Indian Point. In 2015 Entergy announced that it would close FitzPatrick. NY Gov. Cuomo told his regulatory board to create ratepayer-financed subsidies to protect FitzPatrick (citing jobs). In August 2016, Entergy announced it would sell FitzPatrick to Exelon.

Indian Point activists cannot rest. Like Pilgrim, VY, FitzPatrick and Palisades, the nukes should shut down NOW, and their legacy of thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste remain. And a 42 inch gas pipeline is being built by Spectra, on Indian Point property, 105 feet from emergency generators for the nukes and under the Hudson River. It’s a nightmare scenario. On Friday nine activists were sentenced for blocking access to a Spectra construction site.  (The Guardian published a decent background piece on the issue in April).  

Dave Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently posted about Entergy’s problems over the past five years. “Bad luck might explain an underperforming reactor or two. But bad luck does not cause performance to drop at 70 percent of the Entergy fleet… NRC cannot wait for a reactor to meltdown before asking Entergy to explain why so many of its reactors are experiencing so many problems.”

 

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Nuclear Energy Isn’t Green

My Turn: Nuclear Energy Isn’t Green

by Ann Darling, Safe & Green Campaign Greenfield Recorder 12.26.16

Here in the Pioneer Valley we live within a circle of five operating, decommissioning, or decommissioned nuclear power facilities and a nuclear submarine base. Radioactive materials are extremely dangerous and extremely long lived, and for our safety and the safety of future generations, we need to be informed about nuclear power and the waste created from its mining and its use in weapons and power generation.

Of course, there are nuclear facilities all over the world, and nuclear contamination has a way of traveling very long distances in the air, through oceans and rivers, and in our bodies. So it’s not something anyone can totally escape from, no matter where we live. We have fouled our nest with nightmarishly toxic and pernicious stuff, and we don’t know what to do with it.

It’s extremely painful and frightening and depressing to face this head on. But we have to. We are now the stewards of all this radioactive waste, whether we like it or not. And more waste is being made all the time.

What can you do? First, accept the responsibility of being a nuclear steward. Then become knowledgeable. Two good resources are the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, www.nirs.org, or Fairewinds Energy Education, www.fairewinds.org.

Second, question everything you hear about nuclear power. Start with these two basic assumptions and see if they help you make sense of it: 1) Corporations have a “perverse motivation” (i.e. profit) to reduce costs and neglect safety, so they tend to obfuscate and lie when challenged. 2) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is about one quarter regulator (at best) and three quarters nuclear industry cheerleader. It is one of many “captive regulators” in an economy driven by short-term gain and not by long-term investment in the future.

Third, do everything you can to pressure government, utilities, and corporations to stop creating more radioactive waste. A good starting place would be calling Governor Baker and telling him Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth should be shut down.

Fourth, don’t for one second think that nuclear power is green or sustainable in any way. You will hear that, because nukes don’t create CO2 when they’re generating power, they’re a solution to climate change. What you don’t hear from the proponents of nuclear power/weapons is that the mining and refining of nuclear fuel is extremely energy- and carbon-intensive. What you don’t hear is that the billions of government subsidy dollars that are going to shore up and bail out unprofitable nuclear power companies could be better spent on developing and bringing to scale truly sustainable forms of energy. What you don’t hear is that there is no way to safely clean up radioactive waste. “Green” and “nuclear” simply cannot be credibly used together.

Fifth, don’t even imagine that Yucca Mountain is an appropriate place to store radioactive waste. Even if we had technology good enough to contain radioactive waste for generations – which we don’t – Yucca is not the right place from a geological standpoint.

Sixth, if you live near a shutdown reactor (which you do) and just want the radioactive waste gone, yesterday, think about where it will go. Think about the places it would be transported through, at great risk of accident or terror attack. Think about the places where it would be stored, and where it could leak or worse. Right now, radioactive materials from the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee are being shipped to a storage facility near the Texas-New Mexico border that sits on top on a huge aquifer supplying at least seven southwestern states. What will happen if the radioactivity gets into the deep water?

Seventh, recognize that the communities and geographies that are being forced or asked to take on radioactive waste are sacrifice zones inhabited by people with dark skin and/or no money or political clout. That storage facility on the Texas-New Mexico border is in an area that is poor, rural, and largely Mexican-American. Uranium is mined on indigenous people’s land throughout the world and the waste simply left there, making them sick. Yucca Mountain itself, and the contaminated Nevada nuclear testing sites nearby, are actually on Shoshone tribal lands. This is racism at a profound level.

Finally, get involved in anything that will slow down or stop the creation of nuclear waste. Promote sustainable energy and energy conservation efforts. Climate Action Now is a good local resource: www.climateactionnowma.org. Advocate to shut down Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth:  www.capedownwinders.org or www.pilgrimcoalition.org. Get involved in regional and national discussions about what is the least bad resolution to the problem of nuclear waste. The Citizens’ Awareness Network is a local organization with a solid history and national reach: www.nukebusters.org. You don’t have to be an expert on nuclear power to make a difference. You just have to show up and be ready to learn and work hard for your children and their children and their children.

 

Sincerely,

Ann Darling

Easthampton

Ann Darling currently lives in Easthampton and has worked in Greenfield for over 15 years. She is a 35-year resident of the Brattleboro, Vermont, area and a member of the Safe and Green Campaign to responsibly shut down and decommission Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. She recently attended a national summit on radioactive waste in Chicago.

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Asking Questions on VY Sale

On Election Day (11.8.16) Entergy announced plans to sell Vermont Yankee to a consortium of four companies, led by NorthStar Group. The sale must be approved by the Public Service Board and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Press coverage is here: vtdigger.org/2016/11/08/  Reactions in the press include “Critics-question-Vt-Yankee-sale-plans” by Richie Davis and  vtdigger/optimism-tempered-questions/

The CEO of NorthStar and Entergy VP Mike Twomey will give a 45 minute presentation on the proposed sale during a special Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel meeting December 1.  It is open to the public. You are encouraged to send in questions in advance by emailing Kate O’Connor, NDCAP Chair, at PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov.  (Although it is not on the Agenda, after the panelists ask questions, the Chair said the public will also be given time to ask questions that arise from the presentations.)

It feels like back to 2001 and the sale of Vermont Yankee to a company we learned about through the sale process. This time we are asked to trust  four out-of-state corporations: Northstar, Burns & McDonnell, AREVA (which is French) and Waste Control Specialists. The latter is being sued by the US Dept. of Justice for creating a monopoly on nuclear waste disposal.

Will the PSB require that commitments made to Vermont in the 2001 sale be honored by NorthStar? Or are we starting with a clean slate? What will the clean up standards be: greenfield? Will they re-hire workers who know the site? The state and Entergy just got to a happy place with state oversight after months of negotiations … does that start over?

So many questions … please email your’s to NDCAP and come to Brattleboro December 1.

From the official NDCAP webpage:

Special Meeting of the Full NDCAP Panel

Thursday, December 1, 2016, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Brattleboro Area Middle School Multipurpose Room
109 Sunny Acres, Brattleboro, VT

The Panel will receive a briefing from representatives from Entergy and NorthStar Group Services Inc. regarding the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee.  The Panel will also hear a decommissioning update from Entergy and a presentation on site restoration standards from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

The public is invited to submit questions for this meeting in advance by emailing Kate O’Connor, NDCAP Chair, at PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov.  (All emails sent to NDCAP become public record.)

The complete agenda for the December 1 meeting is available here.
Advanced meeting material for this meeting will available here as it becomes available. 

All meetings of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel are open to the public.

Remote Access (via GoToWebinar) will be available for the December 1, 2016 meeting.  Please email Tony Leshinskie, Vermont State Nuclear Engineer at anthony.leshinskie@vermont.gov or via PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov to request a remote access connection.  Remote access requests should be made no later than 12 noon on December 1, 2016.

12-1-16-ndcap-agenda-final-1

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