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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20082
Nos. 14-1225, (D.C. Cir., 04/26/2016)

The D.C. Circuit denied an environmental group's petition challenging NRC's decision not to allow the group to intervene in the license renewal proceeding for a nuclear power station located 35 miles outside of Philadelphia. The group sought to present "new and significant" information regarding severe accident mitigation alternatives (SAMAs) relevant to the site. An NRC regulation excludes plants from having to conduct a subsequent SAMA analysis, but the group argued that this general regulation does not account for new circumstances. This argument, however, amounts to a collateral attack on the regulation itself—an attack that should properly have been brought through a rulemaking petition. In addition, NRC considered whether additional site-specific SAMAs would be efficacious and concluded that they would not. This decision was rational, supported by facts, and similarly sufficient to satisfy NRC's "hard look" obligation under NEPA. And because the group failed to show that its contentions were unique to the site, rather than common to a large class of facilities, it was not entitled to a waiver from the applicable NRC regulations.