ATLANTA — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle can proceed and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considered the risks that created a nuclear accident in Japan.
Southern Company, operator of the plant, applauded the decision but said construction was never delayed while the case was pending.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a defeat for nine environmental groups whose lawsuits were combined into one case. The groups had argued that the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, exposed new dangers and that the NRC should have halted its consideration of Vogtle’s combined operating license until more research could be done.
The NRC did dispatch a task force to Japan to study that situation, and it got a list of concerns before issuing the Vogtle combined operating license.
The court’s 30-page decision said the NRC’s environmental impact statement had already covered those concerns.
“In this case, NRC’s original EIS for Vogtle considered precisely the types of harm that occurred as a result of the Fukushima accident. The EIS considered consequences and mitigation of severe accidents involving reactor core damage and the release of fission products,” the judges wrote.
The panel also found that the NRC was consistent in treating the Vogtle application the same as it did other nuclear applications and that the environmental groups in their lawsuits didn’t offer any new data that hadn’t already been considered.
Southern Company spokeswoman Jeannice Hall said the NRC’s review of the Vogtle application was thorough and thoughtful.
“Southern Company fully accepts its responsibility to operate its plants safely and to bring these new units online in a manner that meets all safety standards,” she said. “We share that goal with the NRC, and we look forward to working with the NRC to incorporate lessons learned from Fukushima into the construction and operation of Vogtle 3 and 4.”