Massachusetts Representatives Assail NRC

Congressmen Warn Regulatory Commission of Opposition to Easing Standards

AMESBURY,--Congressmen opposed to the opening of the Seabrook, N.H., nuclear power plant yesterday warned Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials they would face fierce resistance if they favored a plan to ease emergency evacuation safeguards.

At a hearing he convened on the plant's evacuation procedure, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) led an attack against NRC officials in a packed Amesbury High School auditorium. Amesbury is one of six Massachusetts communities within a 10-mile radius of the idle New Hampshire power plant.

Markey accused the NRC of helping New Hampshire Yankee, Seabrook's builder, win an exemption that would reduce the evacuation zone from 10 to two miles.

He also accused New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu of using White House contacts to intimidate the Federal Emergency Management Agency into approving the smaller evacuation zone.

Such a move would eliminate Massachusetts from an evacuation because the state is outside the two-mile zone. Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has held up Seabrook's licensing by refusing to submit evacuation plans.

"You can't set up separate rules for Seabrook, or you're going to run into a razorblade-sharp edge of opposition," Markey said.

Richard Vollmer, NRC deputy director for nuclear reactor regulation, defended the agency against charges that the utility swayed it to grant a license at the expense of public safety.

"I can assure you the NRC is fully aware of its responsibility to the public health and safety and that the NRC places this above all other considerations," said Vollmer, who was accompanied by three NRC officials and representatives of the emergency management agency.

Dukakis also addressed the hearing panel before a crowd police estimated at 700, reaffirming his stance against the evacuation plans for seabrook. "It would be irresponsible for me, as governor, to certify as adequate, plans which I do not feel are adequate," he said.

Markey was accompanied on the panel by Reps. Nicholoas Mavroules and Chester Atkins, both Massachusetts Democrats.

Sununu was invited to attend but could not appear because of "conflicting obligations in Washington," said Bruce Mohl, New Hampshire deputy attorney general.

Markey denied Mohl's request to speak on the state's behalf, saying he only wanted to hear from Sununu.

To underscore this, Markey pretended to address the absent Sununu by speaking to an empty chair, saying he expected within two weeks answers to questions about the governor's tactics in trying to secure Seabrook's license.

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