The US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s hearing procedures for relicensing nuclear plants, effectively ending a last-gasp effort by nuclear critics to halt the nuclear plant relicensing process through litigation.

The National Whistleblower Centre had asked the high court in September 2000 to overturn the agency’s issuance in March 2000 of a 20-year licence extension for the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland. The group contends the NRC hearing procedures do not offer intervenors sufficient opportunity to build a case.

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC initially sided with the intervenors in November 1999, but the panel court reversed itself after one of its judges left to take another position and the reconstituted panel upheld the NRC hearing procedures. The Supreme Court action lets that ruling stand.