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postheadericon How Does Nuclear Waste Affect the Court Reporting Industry?

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Some court reporters predict the future of their careers through business indicators. They might study how tort reform will change the profession or how new online technologies fuel growth or decline in employment. Few watch the nation's nuclear waste processing, yet a major change might be coming out of that arena.

The Yucca Mountain Hearings

The project to build the country's first long-term nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been subject to massive public interest and complex licensing requirements. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has held licensing hearings in the past but the Yucca Mountain hearings will be unprecedented in scope. Experts predict 300 times the amount of typical material including four years of video and transcripts. There could be 100 simultaneous participants in facilities 2500 miles apart, not to mention countless interested public observers.

The NRC has designed a digital information system that may change court reporting in courtrooms across the world. They hope it will allow everything from web access to the 40 million pages of information in the public database to live annotation of electronic transcripts by witnesses to publically streamed and captioned video of the proceedings.

Features of the NRC System

The licensing hearings will take place simultaneously in Rockville, MD and Las Vegas, NV. The system has been designed so that participants in either area will have immediate and simultaneous access to all documents and live testimony. Telephone and video conferencing will allow witnesses from remote locations to participate without needing to travel to one of the courtrooms.

Security is critical and has been implemented into the design from day one. The staff had to carefully balance both easy public access and secure storage of information. While the network is not secure enough to allow the dissemination of classified information, it does allow sensitive information to be stored safely. Access to most of the system is allowed only to participants who have undergone several hours of training.

How Does This Affect Court Reporting?

In an article in the October 2008 issue of the Journal for the Reporting and Captioning Professions, Administrative Judge Paul Bollwerk said court reporting was "an absolutely essential part of the design process" for this new digital courtroom. They consulted with a realtime court reporting agency to ensure that court reporters' jobs could be made as easy as possible.

The court reporting station can be located in different areas of the courtroom depending on the proceeding. Live video feed to the station includes close-ups of the person speaking so the reporter can note it accurately in the transcripts. DVD copies of the proceedings will be available to the reporters quickly so that transcripts can be corrected.

Court reporting professionals will watch this system carefully over the next several years as the Yucca Mountain and other hearings unfold. The features that work will likely be incorporated into other court systems while the ones that don't will, we hope, be replaced with better ones.

Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on Real Time Court Reporting, visit

Article Source: How Does Nuclear Waste Affect the Court Reporting Industry?

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