Nuclear Reactor 1

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Q: The other day, while one nuclear plant in our neighborhood was shut down for refueling, the other plant suffered a serious accident that damaged the reactor.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission then ordered the shut-down plant to stay that way – until it can be determined that, unlike the damaged plant, the shut-down plant can be operated safely.

So, what is safely?  What about the psychological harm of renewing operation?  What if restarting the plant will cause psychological damage to persons living in the vicinity, or damage to the stability and cohesiveness of the neighborhood?

A: The governing law is the federal National Environmental Policy Act.  The statute directs federal agencies to generate a detailed environmental-impact statement for certain kinds of federal actions.  The Supreme Court has held that “Congress was talking about the physical environment – the world around us, so to speak.”

Interpreting the statute, the Court has held that the “operation of the facility is an event in the physical environment, but the psychological health damage to neighboring residents resulting from unrealized risks of crime is too far removed from that event to be covered by NEPA.”

In other words, the Supreme Court has already answered your question – ruling that impact upon the psyche of neighbors (and their relatives) is not considered impact upon the physical environment, and therefore not covered by NEPA.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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