Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy

By Stephen E. Atkins | Go to book overview

C

Calvert Cliffs Decision

In 1971 in the Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. Atomic Energy Commission, a U.S. Appeals Court judge ruled that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was subject to the National Environmental Policy Act. The case concerned the proposed building of a nuclear plant in Calvert Cliffs, Maryland. Environmental groups accused the AEC of not considering the potential environment consequences of thermal pollution. The Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee took the AEC to court, and on July 23, 1971, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, ruled that the AEC had to consider all environmental issues in its review process. This decision meant that the AEC needed to develop environmental impact analyses for each nuclear plant project. Until this decision, the statutory basis for issuing a construction permit for a nuclear plant was twofold—for the “common defense and security” and for the “health and safety of the public.” The AEC had interpreted this to mean that only the safety issue could be raised as an objection to a construction or operating license hearing. This interpretation was put in peril by the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act on January 1, 1970. In an attempt to subvert this requirement and speed up the licensing process, the AEC tried to restrict public hearings. The judicial decision ended this strategy. Despite earlier opposition, the AEC did not appeal the decision. This court decision made it difficult for nuclear plants to pass environmental standards and caused lengthy delays before construction of plants could begin. A standstill on reactor licensing ensued for 18 months as the AEC restructured its licensing process. Critics of these restrictions lobbied Congress, and a bill to give the AEC the authority to issue temporary licenses for construction was passed and signed into law on June 2, 1972, by Pres-

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Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A 1
  • B 40
  • C 69
  • D 107
  • E 114
  • F 124
  • G 143
  • H 155
  • I 169
  • J 183
  • K 193
  • L 201
  • M 223
  • N 240
  • O 267
  • P 276
  • Q 296
  • R 299
  • S 318
  • T 357
  • U 380
  • V 391
  • W 397
  • Y 406
  • Z 408
  • Chronology of Atomic Energy 411
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index 445
  • About the Author 492
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