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State Seeks Study of Risks at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Site

March 20, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — California has asked a federal appellate court to order the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine the environmental effects of a potential terrorist attack against a storage site for spent nuclear fuel at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

In a friend-of-the-court brief announced Friday, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer told the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the commission's refusal to order hearings into the issue violated U.S. environmental protection laws and ran counter to warnings and findings by the Bush administration that nuclear power plants might be terrorist targets.

On Jan. 23 the commission rejected a demand by public safety and environmental activists that an assessment be made of the adverse environmental effects of a terrorist attack against an exposed storage facility for spent nuclear fuel at the oceanfront plant near Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County.

The commission said it was not required to assess the effects of a possible terrorist attack because, among other things, such an event was "speculative and simply too far removed" to warrant examination.

But backers of the suit argue that the law requires the commission to study environmental issues that are "reasonably foreseeable" and pose "catastrophic consequences, even if their probability of occurrence is low." In a statement, Lockyer charged that the commission's decision was not only illegal but "ludicrous, contrary to the president's public statements and hazardous to the health of California's residents and environment."

The brief was filed in a suit brought Tuesday against the commission by San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the Sierra Club. They argue that federal statutes require the commission to consider the environmental repercussions of "terrorist attacks or other acts of malice or insanity" against a spent-fuel storage facility, such as the site at Diablo Canyon.

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