Massachusetts' attorney general asked a federal appeals court to overturn a rule that could ease the licensing of the controversial Seabrook nuclear power plant over the objections of state officials.
Attorney General James Shannon argued that the rule, which lets utilities
draw up theirown emergency evacuation plans when states refuse to cooperate, poses a great risk to the safety of the citizens of Massachusetts.Mr. Shannon contended that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission adopted the rule precisely to bypass state officials' opposition to opening of the plant in Seabrook, N.H.
William Briggs, NRC attorney, said the regulation balances the interests of utility companies and public safety.
Last year, the NRC adopted the rule allowing the commission to consider evacuation plans drafted by nuclear plant owners if state and local authorities refuse to offer their own proposals.
The rule presumes that state and local officials will follow the utility's plan in case of an actual emergency.
Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis so far has thwarted the licensing of Seabrook, a completed but still idle reactor two miles north of the Massachusetts border.
Gov. Dukakis maintains that no emergency evacuation plan can safeguard residents of six coastal Massachusetts towns within 10 miles of Seabrook.
The three judges on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned attorneys on both sides but gave no indication of how and when they might rule.
During arguments, Appellate Judge Raymond Acosta questioned Briggs about the wisdom of yielding emergency planning duties to utilities. It seems to me it's a little like the fox guarding the henhouse, Judge Acosta said.