On consideration of petitioner's motion for summary reversal, and of the oppositions submitted thereto, it is
Ordered by the Court that the aforesaid motion for summary reversal is denied.
Separate statements by Chief Judge BAZELON and Circuit Judge LEVENTHAL.
BAZELON, Chief Judge:
Petitioner seeks summary reversal of an order of the Atomic Energy Commission which found no warrant for an emergency cutting back of the authorized power level of nine nuclear plants supplying electricity to various parts of the United States. Petitioner contends that the recently discovered phenomenon of fuel densification, which may affect certain emergency safety procedures, makes it impossible for the Commission to conclude that nuclear power plants are still in compliance with applicable safety regulations. The Commission, however, found that operation of the plants pending staff review of fuel densification presents no "undue risk to public health and safety."
Where, as here, there is a possibility of imminent danger to life and health, emergency court review of administrative action must be more searching than in cases, such as ratemaking, involving purely economic interests.
In 1972, while reviewing other facilities, Commission staff uncovered the phenomenon of fuel densification and determined that further study was necessary to determine the possible impact of this phenomenon on safety. The staff has received submissions from licensees and will complete its review of fuel densification and make any necessary proposals on September 4, 1973. Petitioner's challenge, filed July 12, 1973, was based on two affidavits of a Commission staff member filed in a licensing proceeding not involving any of the plants at issue here.
Applying these facts to the principles that govern our review, this procedure was not ideal. There were no technical submissions to the Commission setting forth the position of petitioner. Unsurprisingly, the licensees had access to far greater technical resources than did petitioner. In future proceedings it may be necessary for the Commission to seek out experts representing varied and opposing technical views to insure that issues such as these are resolved in the "crucible of debate through the clash of informed but opposing scientific and technological viewpoints."
Here the emergency nature of petitioner's request made more extensive proceedings difficult if not impossible. Under the circumstances the presence of submissions from the regulatory staff helped to adequately inform the Commission. It was the staff which discovered the phenomenon of fuel densification and thus, on this issue, the staff was both expert and relatively impartial. The Commission's procedures were thus sufficient to enable me to concur in denying petitioner's requested relief.
The foregoing is simply a statement of the principles which guided my review
LEVENTHAL, Circuit Judge:
Petitioner moves this court for summary reversal of an order of the Atomic Energy Commission which denied petitioner's request for an emergency reduction in the authorized power output of nine nuclear electricity-generating plants licensed by the Commission. The controversy grows out of the discovery, made in 1972 by the Commission staff, of a phenomenon known as fuel densification, which may affect the retention of heat within the fission-generating core of a nuclear reactor. A corollary question relates to the ability of nuclear plants already licensed to comply with Commission standards on cooling of reactor cores. In December, 1972, the Commission staff requested plant licensees and General Electric, a manufacturer of plant equipment, to submit for staff review analyses of possible effects of fuel densification on a variety of plant operations.
On July 12, 1973, petitioner filed a petition with the Commission for an emergency interim reduction in the authorized output of the nine plants. Petitioner contended that the Commission could not negative the possibility that plants at full power would, in unusual circumstances, exceed the reactor core temperatures prescribed by Commission regulations.
After inviting and receiving comments from the licensees and other interested parties in response to the petition, the Commission concluded that in view of the extreme improbability of fuel densification and core over-heating, continued operation of the plants at authorized capacity during the period while the regulatory staff completed its review did not pose any "undue risk to public health and safety." The Commission's order of August 6 directed its staff to complete its study of the effects of fuel densification by September 4, and denied petitioner's request for interim emergency action. In all other respects the Commission deferred ruling on the petition, pending its receipt of the staff's study and recommendations.
In its motion petitioner contends that the Commission's action in awaiting the staff analyses of the material presented to it is a violation of law, so clear-cut that it calls for summary reversal.
Chief Judge Bazelon has taken this occasion to discourse on his views, concerning issues not raised by the parties, as to how an agency should handle the proceedings involving safety and health, and to speculate as to what might be required in other circumstances or in the future. Petitioner has raised no objection, either before the Commission or this court, to the sources of technical information obtained by the Commission in response to the petition presented, to the opportunity which the Commission afforded interested parties to present views in response to the petition, or to the diversity of viewpoints which the Commission solicited and considered before denying the emergency relief petitioner sought. Judge Bazelon's underlying approach, voiced in his separate opinion in International Harvester,