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Saturday
Aug032013

"Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues"

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at a press conference in Oak Harbor, OH in August 2012An article written by Roger Witherspoon, "Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues," begins:

"The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont have joined the fight against California’s San Onofre Nuclear power plant in an effort to stop federal regulators from erasing all record of a judicial ruling that the public has a right to intervene before major amendments are granted to an operating license.

If the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission grants the request of their staff to vacate the ruling of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and expunge the record, it will eliminate a precedent that affects power plant operations and regulatory practices around the country. In particular, it will affect the six-year fight in New York to shut the Indian Point power plants 25 miles north of New York City; and Vermont’s ongoing effort to shut the Vermont Yankee power plant.

The cross country battle now being waged by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is an uphill fight against one of the most powerful professional staffs in the US government and an agency that has a unique view of its own independence.

“The Commission has stated that it is not bound by judicial practice, including that of the United States Supreme Court,” stated Schneiderman and Sorrell in a brief filed June 24 with the NRC challenging the staff request...". Continue reading Roger Witherspoon's article here.

The next proceeding most likely to be immediately and directly impacted by the survival or demise of Friends of the Earths' (FOE) San Onofre precedent involves the replacement of steam generators at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, located on the Lake Erie shoreline in Oak Harbor, Ohio just east of Toledo. A bi-national coalition of environmental groups -- Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club -- have challenged FENOC's attempt to avoid transparent, open, and publicly accessible license amendment proceedings, by arguing the new steam generators are "like-for-like" replacements of the old ones.

But the coalition's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc., has documented numerous major changes from the degraded old to the new replacement steam generators. Gundersen also serves as FOE's expert witness at San Onofre. Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge (photo, above left) serves as the coalition's legal counsel.

An Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel heard pre-hearing oral arguments regarding the environmental interveners' standing, as well as the merits of its arguments, on July 24th. The ASLB indicated it would rule on the admissibility of the coalition's intervention petition this month.

Lodge also represents a second bi-national environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, CEA, DWM, and the Green Party of Ohio) intervening against FENOC's proposed 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse. The proceeding provided another example of the absurb lengths to which a nuclear utility and the NRC staff will go to try to block "public access in nuclear issues." Both FENOC and NRC staff argued that because CEA's home base was a mere 127 feet beyond an arbitrary 50-mile cut off point, their standing the proceeding should be rejected. The ASLB overseeing that proceeding, thankfully, did not agree.

However, that ASLB (and/or the NRC Commission above it) has rejected all of the interveners' contentions but one: a successful lawsuit brought against NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy has resulted in a court-ordered requirement for an environmental impact statement by NRC regarding the risks of long-term, on-site storage of high-level radioactive wastes. The EIS will take two years to complete (NRC had previously admitted it would take seven years to complete, but is racing through the process), during which time the Davis-Besse license extension cannot be finalized. Davis-Besse's original 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.