WASHINGTON — A divided federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not have to hold a hearing on the danger from potential earthquakes before issuing a license to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the central California coast.
"The probability of any size earthquake occurring in San Luis Obispo in any given year is about one in 50," said the majority opinion by Judge Robert Bork affirming a lower court decision. "The probability that the two events (an earthquake and nuclear accident) will occur contemporaneously in a single week during the life of the plant is approximately one in 6.5 million."
The 5-4 majority of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said there is no merit to the claim by Mothers for Peace, a San Luis Obispo group that has led a 10-year legal challenge to the plant, that the organization was illegally denied a hearing on the issue. The court said "the NRC was not required by its regulations to consider the potential complication effects of earthquakes on emergency planning in its decision to license Diablo Canyon."
Diablo Canyon, fully licensed and operating since last year, is built on the coast near San Luis Obispo, only 3 miles from a major offshore earthquake fault. The plant has two units in operation, but the second unit was not involved in the court case.