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Terrorism not a problem for Diablo Canyon, feds say

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The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant has permission to store spent fuel in above-ground storage containers without further study of a potential terrorist attack.

The decision was announced on Oct. 23 by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which ruled that an existing eight-page environmental assessment was adequate despite protests by Mothers for Peace. The SLO-based nuclear watchdog group won a 2006 court decision to have the plant perform an environmental study on potential health hazards if the casks were attacked, but the group was overruled 3-1 when they pushed for a full Environmental Impact Report.

With the NRC’s OK, Diablo Canyon can move spent fuel from existing storage pools to onsite storage casks. The casks are essentially an alternative to the existing pools, which hold radioactive material for five years while radiation levels can decay.

One NRC commissioner didn’t believe things were quite so bulletproof.

“The staff’s support for its argument that it did analyze the environmental effects on the surrounding land is remarkably thin,” Commissioner Gregory Jaczko said in a dissenting opinion.

Jaczko’s written opinion is almost as long as the environmental study. In it, he railed against the study for glossing over specific analyses and keeping much of the information secret under the guise of security.

That argument didn’t get very far with the other commissioners, who ruled that health risks and land contamination from potential terrorist attacks were not significant. The commission ruled that no more study was necessary because Diablo Canyon is relatively isolated and the likelihood of an attack on the plant is low.

Mothers for Peace spokesperson Jane Swanson said the group is working with its attorney on what to do next.

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