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Metropolitan Edison Co. v. People Against Nuclear Energy
United States Supreme Court
460 U.S. 766 (1983)
Both Three Mile Island Unit 1 nuclear power plant (TMI-1) and Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) were nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (defendant). When TMI-2 suffered a serious accident while TMI-1 was shut down for refueling, the NRC ordered Metropolitan Edison Company (Metropolitan) (defendant) to keep TMI-1 shut down until the NRC conducted a hearing to consider several safety-related issues. The NRC published a notice of hearing regarding TMI-1 safety issues. People Against Nuclear Energy (PANE) (plaintiff) intervened in the hearing. PANE was a group of residents who opposed the operation of Three Mile Island’s reactors. PANE asserted that restarting TMI-1 would cause severe psychological damage to persons living nearby due to concerns over the risk of a nuclear accident. The NRC had prepared an environmental-impact statement (EIS) prior to granting operating licenses to Three Mile Island. The EIS contained information on the release of low-level radiation, increased fog, the risk of a nuclear accident, and other effects of operation of TMI-1. The NRC also prepared an environmental-impact assessment (EIA) considering the same. The NRC determined that the psychological harm due to the risk a nuclear accident was too attenuated to require extensive review. The NRC approved renewed operation of TMI-1. PANE sought review of the NRC’s decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court of appeals held that the NRC’s failure to consider the potential harm to the psychological health of residents caused by the risk of a nuclear accident violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Metropolitan and the NRC appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)
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