Nuclear industry watchdog groups are hailing a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that they say will force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take public comment on security at nuclear power plants.
The case was filed by San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and a group called Public Citizen after the agency issued new rules in 2003 on what kinds of terrorist attacks plants are required to guard against. The agency acted without notifying the public or taking comment.
The court has given the NRC 120 days to schedule a date to hold public hearings.
The court apparently ruled Friday, but the groups only found out about the decision in a letter received Tuesday.
NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said late Tuesday he was unfamiliar with the case and could not comment.
Activists with Mothers for Peace say the ruling will bolster a separate case they have against the federal agency for failing to hold public hearings on security measures for a proposed storage facility for highly radioactive spent reactor fuel at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
"The court ruled that the public's input must be considered on security issues," said Rochelle Becker, Mothers for Peace spokeswoman. "This provides a piece of precedence for our case."
This is one of several lawsuits filed against the NRC by nuclear activists regarding the lack of public involvement in nuclear security and licensing issues.
Activists say the agency is increasingly cutting the public out of the process. The agency and the nuclear industry say the changes are an attempt to streamline the process and safeguard sensitive security information.
The Mothers for Peace case over the proposed Diablo Canyon aboveground storage facility will be heard in a San Francisco court of appeals, but no hearing date has been set.
The group is also challenging Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which owns Diablo Canyon, over its request before the state Public Utilities Commission to replace the plant's steam generators as well as an appeal of the Diablo Canyon storage facility before the state Coastal Commission.
Arguments in the steam generator case are being taken this week in San Francisco. The Coastal Commission is scheduled to hear its appeal when it meets in San Pedro in November.
PG&E officials do not comment on NRC cases.