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Injunction Sought Against Operation of 20 Nuclear Power Plants

June 1973

Citation: ELR 10074

Ralph Nader and Friends of the Earth have filed a complaint with the District Court for the District of Columbia charging the Atomic Energy Commission with abuse of discretion for licensing 20 nuclear power plants in reliance upon the Interim Acceptance Criteria for Emergency Core Cooling Systems (ECCSs) that were issued by the Commission on June 29, 1971.1 Complainants contend that the Commission's action violates its duty under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 not to issue licenses for nuclear power plant operation unless there has been a showing that licensees "will provide adequate protection to the health and safety of the public"2 in the plant's operation. A significant danger associated with nuclear power plants is the accidental release to the environment of the liquid coolant surrounding the radioactive fuel. Such an "uncontrolled loss of coolant accident" (LOCA) could conceivably release enough radioactivity to kill and injure hundreds of thousands of people and do billions of dollars of property damage. Before nuclear power plant licenses can be issued by the AEC, the complainants argue, an emergency core cooling system must be developed that is capable of controlling LOCAs. The AEC has demonstrated its zeal for the development of nuclear energy, according to complainants, by promulgating Interim Acceptance Criteria for emergency core cooling systems on the basis of presumptions and beliefs based on inadequate, incomplete, and unverified information. The Commission, complainants urge, has ignored the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and the operating heads of the Emergency Core Cooling System Research Program, all of whom maintain that inadequate criteria exist upon which to assure that emergency core cooling systems can control LOCAs. Complainants contend, therefore, that operation of plants licensed on the basis of the Interim Acceptance Criteria for ECCS is inimical to the public safety and must be enjoined.

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