Magazine article Science News

Legality of New NRC Rule Is Challenged

Magazine article Science News

Legality of New NRC Rule Is Challenged

Article excerpt

Legality of new NRC rule is challenged

As expected, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted late last month to enact a rule change that will allow the licensing of nuclear power plants without state or local participation in emergency planning (SN: 10/31/87, p.279). The rule change is designed to break the deadlock caused by some authorities' refusal to participate in the emergency planning process. Their refusal has stalled the licensing of the Seabrook, N.H., and Shoreham, N.Y., nuclear power plants.

Unexpectedly, however, the commission made some last-minute changes in the wording of the rule--changes that some groups say are illegal. The changes were made in the final days before the NRC vote, and well after the period for public comment had ended. Normally, such changes are published in advance in the Federal Register to allow at least 30 days for public comment.

At issue are details of the NRC's "realism doctrine.' As originally worded in an Oct. 13 NRC briefing paper, the realism doctrine assumed that in the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, state and local authorities "would do their best to protect the affected public.' It made "no assumption,' however, that officials would follow a utility company's particular emergency plan.

According to NRC spokesperson Sue Gagner, however, the final rule assumes that authorities "will use the utility plan. …

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