Debate on Nuclear Fuel Cask Safety

A panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments late last week whether Pacific Gas and Electric needed to conduct environmental analysis on the vulnerability of spent nuclear fuel casks stored at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plan. Attorneys for Mothers for Peace argued that such analysis was required and demanded access to security documents long deemed top secret to ensure that proper analysis has been conducted and that proper safeguards have been taken. In 2002, Pacific Gas & Electric was granted permission to be begin storing spent fuel rods that have been accumulating at Diablo Canyon—because no final repository for such nuclear wastes exists in the United States—in giant concrete cased steel lined caskets. Mothers for Peace has insisted that these storage tasks would be easy pickings to any terrorist with an airplane. PG&E officials have insisted the casks are built to withstand a direct hit by a plane. They’ve also argued against allowing anyone without high level government security clearance to examine whatever internal precautions they’ve taken for such terrorist eventualities.