Groups challenge NRC’s unlawful denial of a public process over decades-long delay in inspecting and testing Diablo Canyon’s embrittled pressure vessel
Today, November 30, 2023, Friends of the Earth and Mothers for Peace filed a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for violating federal law when it rejected the group’s request for a public hearing over outdated inspections at Diablo Canyon, California’s last remaining nuclear power plant.
And the agency granted each extension without public notice or the offer of a hearing.
In 2006, the NRC amended Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) operating license for Diablo Canyon Unit 1 to set a deadline of 2009 for PG&E to test the integrity of the pressure vessel that holds the highly radioactive core. Diane Curran, attorney for Mothers for Peace, noted that “The test is important for protection of public health and safety because it will show whether years of radiation exposure have weakened the steel vessel to the point where it may crack or shatter during an accident, thereby exposing the core and risking a catastrophic meltdown.”
Despite the importance of the test, and in disregard of previous indications of embrittlement, the NRC has repeatedly postponed the deadline, and has now set it at 2025, more than 15 years late. “NRC’s decision to shut out the public on this major threat to public safety is appalling and unlawful,” said Hallie Templeton, Legal Director for Friends of the Earth. “An open and public process is absolutely essential when surrounding communities and the environment are at risk of a nuclear meltdown.”
The lawsuit is the next step groups are taking to advance their September 14, 2023 petition to NRC which seeks an immediate shut-down of Unit 1 until the long-delayed inspections and testing of the pressure vessel are completed and a public hearing occurs. In October 2023, the NRC denied the request for a public hearing and referred the remaining requests to NRC’s Executive Director of Operations.
This is the second Ninth Circuit lawsuit brought in 2023. The organizations also have challenged the NRC’s March 2023 decision to indefinitely extend the term of the operating licenses for Unit 1 and Unit 2 without a safety or environmental review or a public hearing. Briefing is complete and oral argument is scheduled for January 10 in Pasadena. Linda Seeley, spokesperson for Mothers for Peace, denounced the unlimited extension as hazardous to public safety and the environment and promised, “We will keep fighting to ensure that the NRC and PG&E abide by the law.”