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Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Commn.

United States Supreme Court
461 U.S. 190 (1983)


The United States as a whole has made significant efforts to use atomic power as an alternative source of energy. However, the use of atomic energy produces highly radioactive waste that must be stored in nuclear power plants and storage facilities. California passed the Warren-Alquist Act to help regulate the storage and disposal of nuclear waste. Section 25524.1(b) of the Act provided that before a nuclear power plant could be built, the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (defendant) had to determine on a case-by-case basis that there would be "adequate capacity" for interim storage of the plant's spent fuel at the time the plant required such storage. Section 25524.2 of the Act imposed a moratorium on the certification of new nuclear plants until the State Commission found that there had been developed, and that the United States, through its authorized agency, approved a demonstrated technology or means for the permanent and terminal disposal of high-level nuclear wastes. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) (plaintiff), a nuclear power producer, filed suit in federal district court seeking to enjoin enforcement of the California regulations, alleging that the regulations were preempted under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA). The district court held that both Sections 25524.1(b) and 25524.2 were preempted by the AEA. On appeal, the circuit court of appeals reversed and held that Section 25524.1(b) was not ripe for review, and that Section 25524.2 was ripe for review but was not preempted by the AEA. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)

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