Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mothers for Peace to appeal NRC failure to fully address terrorism issues in Federal Court

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) will file a petition with the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ruling of October 23, 2008. That ruling was the outcome of a hearing held before the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners on July 1, 2008. The ruling is accessible at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/orders/2008/2008-26cli.html MFP believes that the NRC's October 23, 2008 decision, refusing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement regarding the environmental impacts of an attack on the proposed Diablo Canyon spent fuel storage facility, violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NRC violated NEPA by failing to address the impacts of credible attacks on the facility, or to adequately explain the basis for its refusal to do so. Therefore MFP will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse the NRC's decision and order the NRC to prepare an EIS that fully considers the environmental impacts of an attack on the facility, and evaluates the cost-effectiveness of design changes that would provide greater protection to human health and the environment from an attack, such as berming the facility and using more robust casks. MFP expects to file a petition with the Court in the coming week. BACKGROUND The precedent-setting case began in 2002, when the NRC refused to evaluate the environmental impacts of an attack on the proposed dry cask facility before issuing a permit to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) to store spent fuel on the site. In 2006, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the NRC to do such a study in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In response, the NRC Staff produced an extremely abbreviated environmental study, devoting just a few pages to its conclusion that the impacts of an attack would be insignificant. MFP's expert witness, Dr. Gordon Thompson of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, contended that the agency's technical analysts erred by assuming a cask could be punctured without also recognizing that its contents could be ignited, allowing a large quantity of radioactive cesium and other contaminants to become airborne and transported over a broad geographic area. The resulting damage to public health and the environment would cost billions of dollars. MFP, an all-volunteer non-profit group, has challenged NRC regulatory practices as applied to Diablo Canyon since 1973, and has litigated issues related to sabotage and terrorism since 1976. Further background is available at http://mothersforpeace.org.

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