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Nuclear Agency to Limit Public’s Rights in Hearings on Nuclear Issues

March 17, 2000

Nuclear Agency to Limit Public’s Rights
in Hearings on Nuclear Issues

More Than 100 Consumer and Environmental Groups Oppose NRC Plan

    WASHINGTON, D.C. More than 100 environmental organizations and grassroots citizen groups today asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to halt efforts to limit the public’s rights in hearings on decisions that affect families, homes and communities.

    In letters sent today to President Clinton and NRC Chairman Richard A. Meserve, a coalition of consumer and environmental organizations opposed the nuclear agency’s plans to switch from formal to informal hearings, which would afford the public less opportunity to gain information.

    “We believe that the Chairman’s move to limit the public s rights is wrong and will further erode public confidence in the agency, the nuclear industry and any potential resolution of the high-level nuclear waste problem,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project.

    The NRC has asked the Senate to approve a shift from formal hearings which give the public the right to obtain documents through discovery and to cross-examine hearing participants to informal hearings, in which the public can do neither. This would curtail the ability of citizens to adequately participate in hearings on the proposed “high-level” waste repository at Yucca Mountain, located near Las Vegas, Nev., and on safety issues at more than 100 U.S. nuclear reactors, the groups said. They noted that by changing the rules, the NRC is reneging on a deal made in the late 1950s in which the nuclear industry agreed to extensive hearings if it was exempted from state and local regulation.

    “The NRC and the nuclear industry want to turn the public into second-class citizens by limiting our hearing rights,” said James Riccio, senior analyst for Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. “We see no reason to give away our rights to cross-examination and discovery. We do not accept the nuclear agency and industry notion that ignorance is bliss.”