Garrett Leight

An airborne terrorist attack is “reasonably foreseeable” at the new Diablo Canyon facility for storage of spent reactor fuel, according to a press release from the Mothers for Peace organization.

The Mothers for Peace organization and Sierra Club told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals why the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) violated environmental law when it licensed the used fuel storage at the nuclear power plant.

The attorney generals of California, Washington, Utah and Massachusetts and San Luis Obispo’s County Council filed briefs in support of the lawsuit, according to the press release.

The group’s attorney, Diane Curran, required protection of the environment from impacts of terrorist attacks. However, in 2003 the NRC made a decision refusing to hold a hearing on the possibility of such terrorist attacks and as a result, calls for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

“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 said in a press release.

According to the NRC Web site, the NRC issued PG&E the 20-year renewable license to operate the Diablo Canyon storage. PG&E intends to transfer used nuclear reactor fuel that has cooled significantly from spent fuel pools at the plant into dry casks.

Curran argued that the 140 spent fuel storage casks are located on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean, making them extremely vulnerable to an airborne attack.

“The effects of a terrorist attack on the steel casks could be devastating,” she said. “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.”

According to the press release, the NRC refuses to consider any design measure that could minimize the impacts of a terrorist attack.

Curran said that there are many feasible alternatives from minimizing these impacts and the NRC had no lawful basis to ignore the requests.

Jill ZamEk, project director for Mothers for Peace, said in a press release that the NRC consistently shuts out citizen groups like theirs, even though they routinely discuss measures for protection against the threat of terrorist attacks.

“The NRC only listens to the nuclear industry, which has a vested interest in minimizing the cost of environmental protection,” said ZamEk in a press release. “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 the environment.”

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