The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delayed action last week on a plan to bar the public from some of its meetings, saying that it wants to review a not-yet-completed report from the American Bar Association before making its decision.

The controversial rule, proposed in May, has been revised to specify that the five-member commission would not be permitted to hold closed meetings involving the licensing of nuclear plants or briefings on power plant safety issues.

Four of the five commissioners support the change, saying that more private meetings are needed to ensure freer exchanges of ideas between the members.

"It's awfully hard to articulate things sometimes in public," said NRC Chairman Nunzio Palladino.

But critics, including Commissioner James Asselstine, said the panel already has the right to discuss sensitive personnel and management issues privately.

Asselstine criticized the absence of requirements for advance public notice of closed sessions and for transcripts to be kept of what was said during the meetings.

At issue is what requirements the commission is subject to under the Government in the Sunshine Act. The American Bar Association is expected to file its report on open meeting laws within a few months, the commissioners said.