One thing you have to give groups who base their existence on not liking something, they'll pull every rabbit out of the hat in order to have their way. This differs from advocacy groups, because being zealously against something comes far more naturally to the human animal than being zealously for something (Presidential elections aside, of course, and even they are usually motored by dissatisfaction with the status quo.)
But the zeal frequently doesn't work - often foiled by a tin ear for nuance - and so it has come to pass for the San Luis Obispo group Mothers for Peace, which has been trying for two years to keep Diablo Canyon from storing their used nuclear fuel.
Well, lately, anyway. They describe themselves as a “non-profit organization concerned with the local dangers involving the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant” and nuclear energy in general. Luckily, they also stand for "peace, social justice and a safe environment," so we must allow that their hearts are in the right place.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week rejected on a 3-1 vote a petition contending that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon power plant is storing used nuclear fuel in above ground storage containers without sufficiently accounting for the potential environmental damage resulting from a terrorist attack. In rejecting the petition, the commissioners determined that even the worst-case scenario would not cause health problems for area residents - and that scenario is vanishingly small. (This gets into risk assessment, a frighteningly complex field of study that you use when you try to convince a friend that plane travel is far safer than your average 1974 Pinto.)
In 2006, the 9th circuit court of appeal agreed with the group that NRC must develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) to address the concerns.
NRC complied in 2007, but Mothers for Peace remained dissatisfied:
The resulting EA, however, is offensively inadequate, a simplistic 8-page document which distorts and minimizes the environmental impacts of attacks. It rules out credible threat scenarios and fails to provide references to scientific or other sources.
Things didn't go well for them:
"The NRC staff and PG&E provided essentially uncontradicted evidence that the probability of a significant radioactive release caused by a terrorist attack was low, and that the potential latent health and land contamination effects of the most severe plausible attack would be small," commissioners wrote in their order.
None of this is new, of course - we'd agree if the mothers had said that Yucca Mountain would be a better place than the plants to store used nuclear fuel - so would the plants, when it comes down to it - but we all know how that's going, and we'd guess the mothers wouldn't want to open that can of pop.
However, the mothers really didn't do their homework on the casks - they're really quite safe and not vulnerable to much mischief - and the commissioners rapidly whittled their various contentions down to one. And the NRC essentially said that one didn't have much merit. The decision allows PG&E to continue with their storage procedure.
Don't rule out the Mothers of Invention - er , for Peace - yet, though. Diablo Canyon may allow them to go about their business in a pollution-free kind of way, but they won't stop until they get that delicious smoke-belching plant to enhance their "peace, social justice and safe environment" sort of life. We wish them all kinds of luck - we just won't specify which kinds.
Hard to complain with such a sweet logo - normally, we might ding them for the whole "doing it for the children" dodge - but heck, they are mothers, so we guess they get a pass on that one.