Court Upholds Licensing of Diablo Canyon N-Plant


A federal appeals court Monday upheld the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s issuance of an operating license for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court said that except for “two minor exceptions,” it could not fault the commission’s decision in August to allow the first unit of the problem-plagued twin reactor plant to begin commercial operation.

“The Diablo Canyon proceedings have lasted 15 years, involved scores of decisions . . . produced thousands of pages of record and consumed countless professional years of research and study,” a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in an 80-page ruling.


Ron Weinberg, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, which operates the plant, said, “Naturally we’ve said all along that while safety was not the issue in this particular case, that the NRC did act properly in issuing the license and Unit 1 is operating well and is safe to operate. We are of course gratified to see the court has affirmed this point of view.” He said Unit 1 was operating at 50% power Monday as testing continues.

“These protracted proceedings may at last come to a close,” wrote Chief Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey. “We conclude that Diablo Canyon is ready to begin generating electric power for the citizens of California.”

Judge Robert H. Bork, a former U.S. attorney general, concurred in the ruling.

However, Judge Patricia M. Wald dissented in part, saying the commission should have given critics an opportunity to challenge the judgment by the NRC’s staff that an earthquake would not impair an evacuation of the surrounding area in the event of a serious accident at the plant.

Wald also said opponents should have been allowed to introduce as evidence the transcripts of three closed-door meetings the NRC held last summer on the plant.