Nuclear safety: Attorneys general of NY & VT join Friends of the Earth in opposing NRC's move to erase landmark ruling that promoted closing of CA nuclear reactors

Nuclear safety: Attorneys general of NY & VT join Friends of the Earth in opposing NRC’s move to erase landmark ruling that promoted closing of CA nuclear reactors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The attorneys general of New York and Vermont — two states opposed to extending the lives of their aging nuclear reactors — are supporting a filing by Friends of the Earth opposing a controversial effort by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Staff to erase a decisive ruling on public participation that led to the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California.

Last month, in a case brought by Friends of the Earth and supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board unanimously ruled that restarting the crippled San Onofre reactor Unit 2 could not go forward without a trial-like formal proceeding before a judge with public hearings, expert witnesses and sworn testimony. On June 7, Southern California Edison announced it would close San Onofre permanently rather than go through such a proceeding. A week later, the NRC staff, who had downplayed the significance of the landmark ASLB ruling, filed a motion to vacate it.

On Monday, Friends of the Earth and the NRDC filed their response to the NRC staff’s motion, charging that the NRC’s Staff is trying to limit the public’s right to participate in decisions on nuclear safety. The response also says the NRC’s motion is flawed because the agency failed to appeal the ASLB decision, bypassing Commission review of the order on its merits.  NRC staff cannot now “wipe the slate clean,” as the Staff request, simply because it does not agree with the decision. 

Late Monday, the attorneys general of New York and Vermont filed briefs supporting Friends of the Earth and the NRDC’s argument. The States wrote,

[We] take very seriously the public participation provisions laid out by the United States Congress and the Commission, and submit that the Commission’s granting of vacatur in this proceeding would run counter to those provisions and Congressional intent, frustrate informed public participation in other proceedings, and improperly skew the development of Commission administrative case law.

The issue will now be considered by the five commissioners of the NRC, although it is uncertain when.

The unanimous ASLB judgement is already being cited in a case concerning the safety hazards of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio.

New York is opposed to the NRC granting a 20-year license extension to the Indian Point nuclear reactor, located within fifty miles of 20 million people. Vermont has been in a legal battle in recent years to oppose the continued operation of Entergy’s aging Vermont Yankee reactor, of the same design as the reactors that melted down at Fukushima, Japan.

“It’s both encouraging and very significant that New York and Vermont recognize the importance of the ASLB ruling,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy program director for Friends of the Earth. “The ruling was decisive in shutting down the San Onofre nuclear reactors and asserting the right of the public to fully participate in major decisions relating to nuclear safety. The facts of the case stand and the ruling is as relevant in California as it is in New York and Vermont.”


David Moglen, (202) 222-0708, [email protected]
Bill Walker, (510) 759-9911