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Citizens for Safe Power v. NRC

ELR Citation: 6 ELR 20095
Nos. No. 74-1186, 524 F.2d 1291/8 ERC 1598/(D.C. Cir., 12/22/1975)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) issuance of an operating license to the Maine Yankee atomic power plant is affirmed. The evidence supporting issuance was adequate to afford reasonable assurances that the small increment of background radiation attributable to the plant will not jeopardize public health and safety, and was not insufficient simply because it did not look beyond present technology. Nor was the agency required to determine, independently of its health and safety regulations and of the NEPA process, whether there is a reasonable assurance that operation of the plant will not endanger public health and safety, and that issuance of the license will not be inimical to those same values. Such a requirement would be pointless and an unnecessary waste of agency resources. The court cautions, however, that this NEPA process may not be short-circuited; a facility which meets the NRC's regulations does not, a fortiori, satisfy the "reasonable assurance" and "not inimical" tests, and may not be licensed without the required weighing of risks and benefits under NEPA. Public intervenors could defeat issuance of a license by showing in the NEPA process that whatever residual risks there are within regulation parameters should be deemed unacceptable. The court funds, however, that no such showing has been made in this case.

In a concurrence, Chief Judge Bazelon notes that public interest groups opposed to a particular nuclear plant may not be able to finance a sufficient effort to uncover risks, harms or significant adverse effects which become known only after the operating license has been issued; society should, he thinks, explore mechanisms to assist such objectors in performing this task.

Counsel for Petitioners
Prof. Harold P. Green
National Law Center
George Washington University
720 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 676-6366

Counsel for Respondent
James A. Glasgow
Marcus A. Rowden
Jerome Nelson
Leon Silverstrum
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555
(202) 634-1402

Edmund B. Clark
Neil T. Proto
Jacques B. Gelin
Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 739-2748

Counsel for Intervenor Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.
Thomas G. Dignan, Jr.
Ropes & Gray
225 Franklin Street
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 423-6100

For himself and MacKinnon, J.; Bazelon, C.J. concurs with opinion.