Court backs terror review for nuclear plants
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The consequences of potential
terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants must be considered as
part of environmental reviews of plant expansion plans, a U.S.
appeals court ruled on Friday.
The decision comes as California’s Diablo Canyon Power
Plant seeks to add spent-fuel storage capacity, which it needs
to continue operating beyond this year.
In its decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals held the refusal by the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission to consider environmental effects of a
potential terrorist attack at a proposed spent-fuel storage
facility at Diablo Canyon was at odds with the National
Environmental Policy Act.
The San Francisco-based court also held the view of the
agency that the possibility of such attacks at the California
facility are too “remote and highly speculative” to include in
environmental assessments was inconsistent with the federal
government’s efforts to combat such threats to nuclear
Additionally, the court noted the federal regulator of the
U.S. nuclear power industry has said it would undertake a “top
to bottom” security review against such attacks.
“Here, it appears as though the NRC is attempting, as a
matter of policy, to insist on its preparedness and the
seriousness with which it is responding to the post-September
11th terrorist threat, while concluding, as a matter of law,
that all terrorist threats are ‘remote and highly speculative’
for NEPA purposes,” the panel said in its decision.
The decision allows the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace,
the Sierra Club and Peg Pinard to press for an environmental
review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of possible attacks
against the planned storage facility at Diablo Canyon Power
Plant, which began commercial operation in 1985.
The planned spent-fuel site would permit Diablo Canyon to
add storage capacity on its premises. PG&E Corp. unit Pacific
Gas & Electric Co., which the operates the plant, expects to
fill its existing storage capacity with spent fuel from Diablo
Canyon’s two nuclear reactors some time this year.