The Nulear Regulatory Commission heard oral arguments on July 1 by San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) regarding the safety of proposed storage casks for spent fuel at the Diablo Canyon generating plant. The group alleges that the tanks Pacific Gas and Electric Company wants to build at its utility would be vulnerable to terrorist attack.
The public hearing before the commissioners pitted counsel for MFP against lawyers representing the NRC staff, in an attempt to dispose of the issue promptly, rather than delegating it to administrative law judges. It was the first time such arguments had been heard directly by commissioners since 1989.
MFP attorney Diane Curran accused the NRC staff of failing to address the possibility of a terrorist attack on the casks, which experts engaged by the group contend could catch fire and vent plumes of radioactive cesium gas, resulting in catastrophic land contamination. The NRC staff has countered that they have assessed the threat of a terrorist attack on the casks, but found it to be remote. For purposes of national security, staff officials declined to openly discuss the details of their studies. The MFP said that they have little faith in the staff’s findings, arguing that the findings rely on hidden assumptions and evoke “no confidence,” according to MFP spokesperson Jane Swanson.
Both sides came under heavy questioning from the commissioners, but little progress was evident because of the staff’s restraint in disclosing details. No schedule was announced for a decision by the commissioners about the proposed spent-fuel containers .
“If the NRC approves the use of the casks without addressing our concerns, we will definitely respond,” said Swanson.
Pacific Gas and Electric spokesperson Emily Christensen said Diablo Canyon officials have faith in the NRC’s ability to adequately address the issue.
“We remain confident that the commission will resolve any concerns prior to approving use of the storage casks,” she said. ∆