Court Decision Allows for Comments on Security at Nuclear Plant

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Local nuclear industry watchdog groups praised an appeals court ruling they say will force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold public hearings so residents can comment on security at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the group Public Citizen filed suit after the agency issued new rules in 2003 on detailing requirements for thwarting terrorist attacks at nuclear plants. The agency acted without notifying the public or taking comment.

In a ruling announced in a letter that arrived Tuesday, the U.S. Appeals court gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission four months to schedule public hearings. NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said he was unfamiliar with the case and could not comment.

Mothers for Peace activists said the ruling will bolster another case the group filed against the agency for failing to hold public hearings on security measures for a proposed storage facility for radioactive fuel at Diablo Canyon plant.

``The court ruled that the public's input must be considered on security issues. This provides a piece of precedence for our case,'' Mothers for Peace spokeswoman Rochelle Becker said.

It's one of several lawsuits filed against the NRC by nuclear activists over 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 Mothers for Peace case over the proposed Diablo Canyon 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., operators of Diablo Canyon, over its request before the state Public Utilities Commission to replace the plant's steam generators.

PG&E officials declined comment.