Order for Terror Study at Diablo Nuclear Reactor Stands

January 17th, 2007 - by admin

Keay Davidson / San Francisco Chronicle & Mothers for Peace – 2007-01-17 22:50:54


Order for Terror Study at Diablo Nuclear Reactor Stands
Keay Davidson / San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO (January 17, 2007) —The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and PG&E were issued a major legal setback Tuesday when the Supreme Court declined to consider a lower court decision requiring that a nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo be analyzed for terrorist risk.

The high court’s refusal to take up the case means the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitors the nation’s operational commercial nuclear power reactors, must now formally study the environmental impacts of potential attacks on the Diablo Canyon plant, said an attorney for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, an anti-nuclear group that brought the lawsuit.

But officials with the regulatory commission and PG&E, which operates the plant, said they were looking at what legal options might remain open to them.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in June that the terrorist assessments must be conducted. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and PG&E appealed, hoping to get the ruling overturned out of concern that any such study could force them to take costly security measures at the plant.

Dave McIntyre, NRC spokesman, told The Chronicle that the agency has acted “aggressively since Sept. 11, 2001, to enhance security at nuclear facilities.”

“It would be dishonest and inappropriate for me to speculate on what the commission will decide as the best way forward,” he said.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Lewis said utility officials were “disappointed that the court will not consider this important issue.”

Diane Curran, an attorney for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, said the court’s refusal to take up their case opens the way for legal action against nuclear reactors across the nation.

“It’s going to be difficult for NRC to say this only applies in the Ninth Circuit,” she said. “The court basically said the emperor has no clothes.”

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Watchdog Project at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, agreed. Gunter, who has no part in the Mothers for Peace lawsuit, said “the court’s decision opens a legal can of worms for the industry and the NRC” across the nation, especially at reactor sites that are exceptionally vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Marylia Kelley, a veteran Bay Area activist with Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment in Livermore, said Tuesday’s decision by the court could enhance other activist fights around the nation, including her group’s fight to stop Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s development of an upgraded bio-warfare defense lab in Livermore.

“Community groups all across the nation will be citing this case and asking for similar (environmental) reviews before dangerous, new nuclear, chemical and/or biological facilities are sited and operate,” Kelley said.

WE WON!!!! US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Mothers for Peace
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace

SAN FRANCISCO (January 16, 2007) — Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled against Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of the June 2, 2006 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. NRC, 449 F.3d 1016.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of PG&E’s petition means that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must carry out the Ninth Circuit’s mandate to consider the environmental impacts of intentional attacks on the proposed dry cask storage installation at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California.

PG&E had asked the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that, in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the NRC must consider the environmental impacts of terrorist attacks before it licenses the new facility.

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, a local group that has actively opposed the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant since 1973, is extremely pleased that logic prevailed in this important court ruling, which sends the NRC back to the drawing board to complete the Environmental Impact Statement. The group hopes that effective mitigations will be put in place to provide defenses against possible air attack.

MFP spokesperson, Jane Swanson, is elated with the Court’s decision. “After the events of September 11, 2001, it is only reasonable that the significant health and environmental risks of terrorist attacks be considered when designing and building nuclear facilities. Now, after years of resistance, the NRC and PG&E are forced to address these concerns.”

MFP’s attorney, Diane Curran, said that she expects the NRC to issue a new environmental review document that addresses the impacts of an intentional attack on the proposed facility. In the meantime, PG&E is precluded by law from loading fuel into the new facility.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace is a non-profit organization concerned with the local dangers involving the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and with the dangers of nuclear power, weapons and waste on national and global levels. Additionally, Mothers for Peace concerns itself with issues of peace, social justice and a safe environment.

Mothers for Peace and Sierra Club ask 9th Circuit Judges to Require Protection of Environment from Impacts of Terrorist Attacks at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Waste Storage Facility
Mothers for Peace

SAN FRANCISCO (October 17, 2005) — Today, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the Sierra Club, joined by former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Peg Pinard, told a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals why the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) violated federal environmental law when it licensed a new facility for storage of spent reactor fuel at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The Attorneys General of California, Washington, Utah, Massachusetts, and the San Luis Obispo County Council filed briefs in support of the lawsuit.

The groups’ attorney, Diane Curran, asked the judges to reverse the NRC’s 2003 decision refusing to hold a hearing on the question of whether a terrorist attack on the new facility is “reasonably foreseeable” and therefore requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

As Curran told the Court, “the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have removed any shred of credibility from the NRC’s stance that terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities are ‘speculative’ events that cannot be predicted.”

Curran pointed out 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.”

Curran also said that although an array of design measures could be used to minimize the impacts of a terrorist attack on the new spent fuel storage facility, the NRC had refused to consider them.

“We asked the NRC to analyze the environmental benefits of fortifying the casks, or putting them in bunkers, or scattering the cask storage pads over the site so that they would not present one big target,” Curran said. “These are all feasible alternatives for minimizing the impacts of a terrorist attack on the Diablo Canyon facility.

The NRC had no lawful basis to ignore them.” Jill ZamEk, Project Director for the Mothers for Peace, noted the group’s frustration that while the NRC routinely discusses its measures for protection against the threat of terrorist attacks with nuclear industry lobbyists, it has completely shut out citizen groups like the Mothers for Peace.

“The NRC only listens to the nuclear industry, which has a vested interest in minimizing the cost of environmental protection,” said ZamEk. “The NRC must protect the environment and consider our views on how that can be best accomplished. We have come to the Court of Appeals to vindicate our legal right to participate in government decisions that could drastically affect our lives and the health of our environment.”

• The Petitioners’ Brief in its entirety can be found at