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Environmentalists Attack NRC's Nuclear Fuel Export Licensing

September 1976

Citation: ELR 10190

Environmentalists have historically challenged only the domestic manifestations of nuclear power. The tangible fact of a nuclear power plant, together with a well-established regulatory system, lends itself to neighborhood mobilization and discrete legal fights. Recently, however, some environmentalists have ambitiously questioned a less visible aspect of the nuclear energy issue: exports of nuclear fuel destined for use in reactors operated in foreign countries.

The first such suit, Sierra Club v. AEC,1 set the precedent that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) applies to the federal government's international programs, specifically the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) licensing of nuclear fuel exports. The Sierra Club plaintiffs have now taken the fight directly to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the agency authorized, when the AEC was divided into regulatory and promotional functions, to regulate the exportation of nuclear fuel for foreign reactors. These groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have thus gone where few have dared to tread, into the high stakes and sensitive foreign policy area of nuclear proliferation.

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