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E-M:/ Environmental Coalition Opposes Palisades Nuclear Plant License Extension Due to Risk of Terrorist Attack

Title: News from NIRS

Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; Don’t Waste Michigan; Michigan Environmental Council (MEC); Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS); Sierra Club, Mackinac Chapter; Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy


For Immediate Release

June 22, 2006



Kevin Kamps, NIRS, Washington, D.C., cell (240) 462-3216

Alice Hirt, Don’t Waste Michigan, Holland, cell (616) 218-6511

Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Monroe, (734) 241-6998

Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Lansing, (517) 484-2372



Environmental Coalition Opposes Palisades Nuclear Plant License Extension

 Due to Risk of Terrorist Attack


Covert, Michigan— Citing a recent federal court ruling that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cannot ignore the threat of terrorist attack during licensing proceedings for nuclear power facilities, a coalition of grassroots Michigan and Great Lakes Basin environmental groups has requested official analysis and hearings on the matter before the granting of a twenty year license extension to Consumers Energy’s Palisades nuclear power plant. The five-member NRC Commission is scheduled to vote Friday, June 23rd whether the coalition’s contentions opposing the license extension, including one concerning terrorist attack, will be granted a hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

            The 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled on June 2nd that NRC must formally analyze the risk of terrorist attack to a proposed outdoor storage facility for high-level radioactive waste at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo, California. The suit was brought before the Court by the local Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club and grassroots environmental groups. The court ruling overrides a December 2002 NRC pronouncement that terrorism concerns were outside the scope of licensing and environmental proceedings, as they were too “speculative and remote” to consider. The court concluded “it is unreasonable for the NRC to categorically dismiss the possibility of terrorist attack,” and that “[w]e find it difficult to reconcile the Commission’s conclusion that…the possibility of a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility is ‘speculative and remote’ with its stated efforts to undertake a ‘top to bottom’ security review against the same threat.” The full court ruling can be viewed at: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/2BFBC6088AF13AA98825718000723C79/$file/0374628.pdf?openelement.

            The environmental coalition, including the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, has requested the NRC to analyze the terrorist threat to Palisades before it finalizes its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the proposed license extension. Palisades’ current operating license expires in 2011, but Consumers Energy now wants to run the nearly forty-year-old reactor till 2031. The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and 29 additional organizations – including Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), itself a coalition of 72 groups representing over 200,000 Michigan residents – submitted extensive comments on NRC’s draft EIS last month, including comments regarding Palisades’ vulnerability to potentially catastrophic terrorist attack. The executive summary and full comments can be viewed at http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/licensing/palisades.htm, as can today’s petition to the NRC.

In addition, a number of groups which formally intervened against the license extension last summer before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board are now calling upon the NRC

Commissioners to re-open hearings on their contention concerning terrorism risks at Palisades. The NRC



Commission will vote Friday, June 23rd on whether to override its licensing board in favor of the environmental coalition’s appeal. In addition, NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards is set to discuss NRC’s Safety Evaluation Report regarding the Palisades license extension on July 11th.

            “Palisades represents a radioactive bull’s eye on the shore of 20% of the planet’s surface fresh water, the Great Lakes,” said Michael Keegan of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes in Monroe, Michigan. “The operating reactor and high-level radioactive waste stored on-site are vulnerable to potentially catastrophic terrorist attack.”

            “We call upon the NRC to protect the people and environment of the Lake Michigan shoreline by addressing the risks of sabotage and terrorism from twenty more years of operations and waste generation at Palisades,” said Dr. Judith Johnsrud, national chair of the Sierra Club’s Radiation Committee. “Tens of millions downstream depend upon the Great Lakes for drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism, and other economic values, and thus this radioactive risk must be addressed.”

             “We call upon Governor Granholm, and all of our elected officials, to join us in addressing this issue so vital to our state’s safety and security,” said Alice Hirt of Don’t Waste Michigan.

            On October 8, 2002 Granholm, as Michigan’s Attorney General, joined with 26 other state A.G.s in a letter to leaders of the U.S. Congress urging that legislation to strengthen nuclear power plant security be enacted. The Attorneys General wrote that “[t]he consequences of a catastrophic attack against a nuclear power plant are simply incalculable,” and called for significant security and emergency response upgrades. Copies of the letter are available upon request from Kevin Kamps at NIRS, 240.462.3216.

            Nearly four years later, Congress has still not acted on the urgent request, despite extensive media coverage of government and industry inaction, the 9/11 Commission Report’s revelation that nuclear power plants were an original target for the 2001 terrorist attacks, a 2005 National Academies of Science report on the vulnerability to terrorist attack of radioactive waste storage pools at reactor sites, and even a U.S. General Accounting Office report in April 2006 revealing that NRC had weakened its security regulations in contradiction to its own staff’s recommendations after consulting with the nuclear power industry on cost considerations. See http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/security/securityhome.htm for more information.

“Living in the shadow of Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, we urge that the Palisades reactor be shut down for safety's sake,” said Terry Lodge of the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, who is also serving as pro bono attorney for the coalition opposing Palisades’ re-licensing. “Davis-Besse came close to a meltdown in 2002, and we don't want to risk that at Palisades, whether due to age-related accident or terrorist attack,” Lodge said.

NRC’s Office of Inspector General concluded that NRC contributed to the near-miss at Davis-Besse by placing the nuclear utility's profits ahead of public safety.