Court rejects states’ request for nuclear review

Staff reports

A federal appeals court has refused a request by Massachusetts and two other states to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to declare spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants a serious environmental threat.

The attorneys general of the three states – Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut – had independently filed for the issue to be added to the NRC’s relicensing review.

The NRC is considering relicensing the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth for another 20 years.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in Manhattan. It denied appeals by the three states that it review the NRC’s rejection of a request by Massachusetts and California that it raise the risk level.

The states had argued that spent fuel causes a greater risk of fire than previously appreciated. The appeals court said it must defer to the regulatory agency’s expertise.

“As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given due consideration to the relevant studies concerning the rulemaking petitions, we must defer to its expertise in determining the proper risk level associated with the storage of nuclear material in spent fuel pools,” wrote the court in a decision released Monday.

Massachusetts had claimed concern about the Pilgrim plant and the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon just over the border.

The states had asked the NRC to reverse its 1996 “generic environmental impact statement,” which stated that spent fuel pools did not pose a significant environmental pact as defined by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Patriot Ledger