Mothers for Peace petitions Ninth Circuit to reverse four unlawful NRC rulings

Mothers for Peace asks for access to the documents upon which the NRC claims to have relied in reaching its conclusion that even a successful terrorist attack on the dry casks would have 'no significant impact' on the environment.

PRESS RELEASE
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
December 12, 2008
For immediate release

Contact: Jane Swanson, spokesperson
phone (805) 595-2605

Mothers for Peace petitions Ninth Circuit to reverse four unlawful NRC rulings.

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) today filed a Petition for Review with the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging four orders of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The appeal, filed by MFP attorney Diane Curran “contends that, by refusing to hold a closed hearing on whether the environmental impacts of terrorist attacks and other acts of malice or insanity against the proposed ISFSI should be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”), and by refusing to address the environmental impacts of attacks on the Diablo Canyon spent fuel storage facility before approving a license, the NRC violated the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act; and abused its discretion.”

Therefore MFP has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse the NRC’s decisions and order the agency back to the drawing board. Mothers for Peace spokesperson Jane Swanson states that, “Mothers for Peace is concerned that the NRC has not done enough to protect nuclear facilities from attack, and is not being open enough with the public about what it is doing. It is worrisome that the purpose of the extreme secrecy around the issue of protection from terrorism may be to hide the fact that not enough is being done.”

MFP has not asked that any classified documents be made public. It has consistently asserted that MFP attorney Diane Curran, who has the necessary security clearances, should be allowed access to the documents upon which the NRC claims to have relied in reaching its conclusion that even a successful terrorist attack on the dry casks at Diablo Canyon would have “no significant impact” on the environment.

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 8-page environmental assessment that claimed the impacts of a successful 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.

In multiple legal challenges, MFP has asked the NRC to hold closed hearings allowing access to the secret documents to MFP’s attorney, who has the necessary security clearances. MFP has also insisted that the NRC should prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (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, 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 information and access to the legal documents referred to in this press release is available at http://mothersforpeace.org.