Monday, June 05, 2006

 

Important decision on nuclear power plant siting

Not sure whether this only applies in the 9th Circuit (Western states), but it has the potential to make new plant sitings a _lot_ harder.
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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday handed down a decision  ruling that NRC must require the consideration of the consequences of acts of terrorism in all licensing proceedings as part of the Environmental Impact Statements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
 
The decision focused on the successful challenge by the San Louis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) against the siting of a high level nuclear waste dry cask storage facility at California's Diablo Canyon. The NRC had ruled against their request for a hearing to intervene citing an earlier Memo and Order (12/18/2003) that terrorism was too remote and speculative to be raised in a site specific proceeding in several previous licensing proceedings.
 
Court Decision:
http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/2BFBC6088AF13AA98825718000723C79/$file/0374628.pdf?openelement 
  
The decision concludes "NRC's position that terrorist attacks are 'remote and highly speculative' as a matter of law is inconsistent with the government's efforts and expenditures to combat this type of terrorist attack against nuclear facilities."

"We conclude that it is unreasonable for the NRC to categorically dismiss the possibility of terrorist attack on the Storage Installation and on the entire Diablo Canyon facility as too 'remote and highly speculative' to warrant consideration under NEPA."

 
MFP attorney Diane Curran pointed out in arguments before the court that 140 spent fuel storage casks are to be located on an exposed hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean where they are vulnerable to airborne attack.  "The effects of a terrorist attack on the steel casks could be devastating," she warned.  "Our expert study found that if only two casks were breached, an area more than half the size of the State of Connecticut could be rendered uninhabitable."

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