Power Reactor Development Co. v. Electricians
367 U.S. 396 (1961)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Power Reactor Development Co. v. Electricians, 367 U.S. 396 (1961)

Power Reactor Development Co. v. International Union of

Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO

No. 315

Argued April 26-27, 1961

Decided June 12, 1961*

367 U.S. 396

Syllabus

Under §§ 104b and 185 of the Atomic Energy Act, the Atomic Energy Commission issued a provisional construction permit authorizing a private corporation to construct, but not to operate, on the shores of Lake Erie about 35 miles from the center of Detroit and about 30 miles from the center of Toledo, a fast-neutron breeder reactor for the generation of electric power, subject to the condition that, before issuance of a license to operate it, the final hazards summary report must show that

"the final design provides reasonable assurance . . . that the health and safety of the public will not be endangered by operation of the reactor."

After three labor unions had intervened and opposed continuation of the provisional construction permit in effect, the Commission held extensive hearings, after which it found reasonable assurance in the record

"that a utilization facility of the general type proposed . . . can be constructed and operated at the location without undue risk to the health and safety of the public,"

and it continued in effect the provisional construction permit, subject to substantially the same condition. The Court of Appeals set aside the order and remanded the case to.the Commission.

Held: the Court of Appeals erred in setting aside the Commission's order continuing the provisional construction permit in effect. Pp. 367 U. S. 398-416.

(a) It is clear from the face of the statute that Congress contemplated a step-by-step procedure: first, an applicant would have to get a construction permit, then he would have to construct his facility, and then he would have to ask the Commission to grant him a license to operate the facility. Pp. 367 U. S. 403-405.

(b) It is clear from § 182a that, before licensing the operation of the reactor, the Commission will have to make a positive finding

Page 367 U. S. 397

that operation of the facility "will provide adequate protection to the health and safety of the public." Pp. 367 U. S. 405-406.

(c) Under the provisions of the Act and the Commission's regulations, the Commission proceeded properly in issuing the provisional construction permit on a finding of reasonable assurance in the record that a utilization facility of the general type proposed could be constructed and operated at the location proposed without undue risk to the health and safety of the public, and deferring until application for the grant of an operating license a definitive finding that operation of the facility "will provide adequate protection for the health and safety of the public." Pp. 367 U. S. 406-410.

(d) A different conclusion is not required by the legislative history of the Act. Pp. 367 U. S. 410-414.

(e) Before granting a permit for construction of a reactor near a large population center, the Commission is not required to find that there are "compelling reasons" for doing so. P. 367 U. S. 414.

(f) This Court cannot assume that the Commission will exceed its powers in passing on an application for a license to operate the reactor or that the many safeguards provided to protect the public interest will not be fully effective. Pp. 367 U. S. 414-416.

108 U.S.App.D.C. 97, 280 F.2d 645, reversed, and case remanded.

Page 367 U. S. 398

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