The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved a rules change Thursday that would allow the agency to consider issuing operating licenses for two East Coast nuclear power plants despite local officials' refusal to participate in evacuation planning.
The commissioners voted 5 to 0 in favor of the modification, which could affect the Seabrook, N.H., and Shoreham, N.Y., reactors.
They said the rule provides only the mechanism for the NRC to review utility plans for plants like Seabrook and Shoreham on Long Island. They said it does not guarantee the plants will receive licenses or lower safety standards.
Commission Chairman Lando W. Zech Jr. reiterated the commission's belief in what it calls the "realism doctrine"--that in the event of a nuclear emergency, state and local governments would act to protect the public.
But opponents, led by New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, believe the areas around the reactors cannot be safely evacuated.
Rep. George J. Hochbrueckner (D-N.Y.), whose district includes Shoreham, said that although Thursday's vote did not surprise him, "the decision stinks."