SLOMFP JOINED WITH OTHER INTERVENOR GROUPS TO PETITION NRC TO STOP FINAL LICENSING DECISIONS AT DIABLO CANYON AND NEARLY THREE DOZEN NUCLEAR REACTORS
On June 8, 2012, the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals rejected the Waste Confidence Rule – the long-standing rule which has permitted licensing and re-licensing of nuclear reactors based on the supposition that the NRC will eventually find a way to dispose of spent reactor fuel. For decades, the impacts of storing highly-radioactive spent fuel at reactors across the country have essentially not been analyzed during individual reactor licensing cases. The recent Court decision requires the NRC to finally examine what are likely to be significant impacts.
On June 18, 2012, SLOMFP was among 22 groups that together filed a legal petition asserting that federal law requires the NRC to suspend its final reactor licensing decisions while it determines what environmental effects could occur if the NRC’s decades-long search for a radioactive nuclear waste repository for spent nuclear reactor fuel never materializes. The groups also asked the NRC to establish procedures for ensuring that members of the public can comment on the environmental analysis and raise site-specific concerns about the environmental impacts of highly radioactive spent nuclear reactor fuel in individual licensing cases. Importantly, this petition is not a request to halt or suspend all or any licensing proceedings. Petitioners do not demand any change in the schedules for the NRC Staff’s review of reactor license applications in pending reactor licensing cases. Rather, this petition seeks the suspension of final licensing decisions only, pending the NRC’s completion of the work directed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Diane Curran, the attorney representing SLOMFP and other groups in the Court of Appeals case, said: “The groups filing this petition represent neighbors of nuclear reactors around the country. … By joining together, they seek to ensure that the environmental analyses ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals will be fully applied in each reactor licensing case before operation is permitted, and that they will be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.”
Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford commented: "By telling the naked emperor to go get dressed, the Court has delivered an overdue rebuke to the NRC’s bad habit of pushing for the nuclear power plants while postponing the problems, as we now know the Japanese to have done at Fukushima."
LESSONS LEARNED FROM FUKUSHIMA: SLOMFP DEMANDS NRC INCLUDE RESULTS OF POST-FUKUSHIMA EARTHQUAKE STUDY BEFORE CONSIDERING DIABLO CANYON LICENSE RENEWAL APPLICATION
On April 27, 2012, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) took action to ensure that the NRC’s consideration of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) application for renewal of the Diablo Canyon operating license will include post-Fukushima accident risks and measures for protecting against them. SLOMFP asserts that PG&E’s environmental report for renewal of the reactor license should discuss the results of a new seismic study to be conducted in the next three years. SLOMFP also argued that the environmental report must present a range of alternatives for meeting new post-Fukushima safety requirements.
SLOMFP spokesperson Jane Swanson noted that the NRC had ordered the earthquake investigation to be completed within the next three years, but it did not require the results of the earthquake investigation to be taken into account in the license renewal decision. “Recommendations of the NRC Near Term Task Force, resulting from its studies of the Fukushima accident, document the importance of applying up-to-date information about earthquake risks to the decision of whether to allow Diablo Canyon to operate another 20 years,” said Ms. Swanson. She also stated that SLOMFP expects PG&E to compare the costs and effectiveness of a range of alternative measures for making post-Fukushima safety upgrades. “PG&E must do the best possible job of protecting public safety.”
In the year since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has placed additional safety requirements on all 103 nuclear power plants in the United States. These requirements are designed to address what the NRC calls “beyond design” events – those that the NRC had previously judged so unlikely that there was no need to take them into account when spelling out safety requirements for operating reactors. Fukushima showed the folly of ignoring the possibilities of multiple events happening simultaneously, of one event triggering another, and of multiple reactors being disabled at the same time. It showed the vulnerabilities of spent fuel pools, all the more important because at most U.S. plants, including Diablo Canyon, the pools are more densely loaded than were the pools in Fukushima. The more densely packed the pools, the greater the possibility of fire in case of a partial loss of coolant, according to Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. See
The need for back-up sources of power from a variety of locations and designs was also made apparent by the Fukushima events.
On June 27, 2012, a panel of 3 NRC adjudicators appointed to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) denied both of these motions, but only on issues of timeliness. The ASLB actually suggested a road map for SLOMFP to again bring forth these legal challenges, pointing out specific times when SLOMFP might re-file its contentions. SLOMFP is monitoring the situation and keeping its options open.
CLEAN ENERGY GROUPS SUBMIT FORMAL PETITION TO NRC TO INCORPORATE LESSONS OF FUKUSHIMA: EXPAND EVACUATION ZONES AND IMPROVE EMERGENCY PLANNING AROUND U.S. NUCLEAR REACTORS
On February 15, 2012, thirty-seven clean energy groups submitted a formal petition for rulemaking to the federal NRC seeking adoption of new regulations to expand emergency evacuation zones and improve emergency response planning around U.S. nuclear reactors.
Calling on the NRC to incorporate the real-world lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the proposed rules would expand existing emergency evacuation zones from 10 to 25 miles around nuclear reactors and establish a new zone from 25-50 miles around reactors for which utilities would have to identify and publicize potential evacuation routes. Another improvement would require utilities and state and local governments to practice emergency drills that include a natural disaster that either initiates or occurs concurrently to a nuclear meltdown.
A third of the population in the U.S., or roughly 120 million people, live within a 50 mile radius of a nuclear reactor. Current emergency planning rules require utilities to develop and exercise emergency evacuation plans within a 10 mile radius around reactors. The “ingestion pathway” (food and water contamination) is currently an area about 50 miles in radius and focuses on actions appropriate to protect the food ingestion pathway.
At Fukushima, and earlier at Chernobyl, interdiction of contaminated food and liquids has occurred further than 100 miles from the accident sites.
MOTION TO ADMIT NEW CONTENTION REGARDING THE SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION TASK FORCE REPORT ON THE FUKUSHIMA DAI-ICHI ACCIDENT
On August 24, 2011, SLOMFP challenged the adequacy of the Environmental Report for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (the “ER”) on the basis that it failed to address the extraordinary environmental and safety implications of the findings and recommendations raised by the NRC’s Fukushima Task Force in its report, “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century: The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights From the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident” (July 12, 2011).
SLOMFP asserted that it was the duty of the NRC under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) to consider the new and significant information set forth in the Task Force Report before it makes a decision regarding PG&E’s application for a renewed license.
Initially the ASLB scheduled oral arguments on the contention for October 11, 2011.
Then on November 9, 2011, the NRC Commissioners threw out the reasoning of the ASLB assigned to adjudicate the license renewal application for Diablo Canyon and denied the motion on the basis that the NRC is constantly reviewing new information learned from the Fukushima accident so that “no harm” will be done by the NRC moving forward in the license renewal process. The ruling can be found on the NRC website by doing a search for CLI-11-05.
THE INTERVENTION PROCESS
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) serves a unique role as legal intervenor in licensing decisions regarding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP). SLOMFP qualified for legal standing in 1973 with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and by extension in federal courts, because its members live within a 50 mile radius of the DCNNP and can show that they would be harmed by accidents at DCNPP.
For the past 15 years SLOMFP has been represented by attorney Diane Curran, a partner in the law firm of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, & Eisenberg, in Washington, D.C. Since 1981, Diane has represented citizen groups, state and local governments, and individuals in a wide range of licensing and enforcement cases relating to nuclear power plants, factories, and waste storage and disposal sites. Diane Curran is a recognized expert in the field of nuclear safety and security regulation.
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace considers its role as legal intervenor to be essential for the following reasons:
- No other group has the legal standing to challenge the NRC’s decisions about the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Without our participation there would be no route for public participation in the regulatory process.
- We have been told over the decades by numerous NRC staff members (but not the five Commissioners) that our work helps them to do their jobs better.
- We have been known to win some legal victories that are cited in the legal cases brought by other intervenors. Information about one major case is at http://mothersforpeace.org/data/2006-06-02-a-mfp-win-in-the-ninth-circuit-court-of-appeals
- The SLOMFP Board members have been told by an attorney who works for the Commissioners that sometimes a legal challenge that is denied is nonetheless recognized to have a degree of validity, triggering further internal investigation by NRC staff members.
Those who support our work are encouraged to donate through the website at mothersforpeace,org or via check mailed to
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
P.O. Box 3608
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403
Updated July, 2012 by Jane Swanson, Spokesperson for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org