A ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of appeals may weigh in the balance
New York may lose it lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NY state attorney general sued the NRC claiming it needs to conduct an environmental impact assessment on spent fuel storage at the Indian Point reactor site.
On Feb 15 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a very similar lawsuit brought by an anti-nuclear organization against the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station in California operated by Pacific Gas & Electric.
The so-called "watchdog group" San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace lost its court case in an attempt to overturn an NRC licensing decision that allowed dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel at the power plant.
Arguments not persuasive
The appeals court said the group’s arguments “were not persuasive” regarding a contention on terrorist threats to the spent fuel and cited the legal precedents and environmental assessments that were the basis for the NRC’s decisions. The San Luis Obispo Mother for Peace wanted an entirely new environmental impact statement to justify current and future dry cask spent fuel storage at the reactor site.
In the legal petition, Mothers for Peace argued the NRC violated federal environmental law when it refused to prepare an environmental-impact statement for the potential impacts of an attack on the dry-cask storage facility.
The group demanded a hearing to challenge the NRC’s determination that no credible type of terrorist attack could damage to the environment by release of radioactivity.
The case began in 2002 when the NRC said it was not required to evaluate the environmental impacts of an attack on the proposed dry-cask facility before issuing a permit to PG&E to store spent fuel on the site.
Dry cask storage to continue
PG&E owns and operates Diablo Canyon, a two-reactor nuclear power plant that sits on the coast just north of Avila Beach. The site is home to two Westinghouse PWR reactors of 1,100 MW each. The transfer of spent fuel from PG&E’s reactors at Diablo Canyon to dry-cask containers started in summer 2009.
The anti-nuclear group is not happy about the decision. They told a local newspaper:
“Only when members of the public are informed and permitted to participate in licensing decisions can they hold the NRC accountable for protection of public health and the environment,” said Jane Swanson, Mothers for Peace spokeswoman.
The State of New York has sued the NRC on the same grounds. If courts in New York look at the Ninth Circuit ruling for precedent, it could turn serious litigation into nothing more than a publicity stunt.
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