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Emotion ruled out in A-plant OKs

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, under the National Environmental Policy Act, is required to assess only a nuclear plant's effect on ''physical environment'' - not its impact on human emotions.

In a case growing from the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the justices spurned arguments from a citizen group that would have forced the commission to consider ''psychological stress'' on people before allowing a nuclear plant to operate, Monitor legal correspondent Curtis J. Sitomer reports. In reversing the appellate court, Justice William Rehnquist said that the law clearly ''does not require the (NRC) to assess every impact or effect of its proposed action, but only the impact or effect on the environment.''

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In effect, antinuclear groups have been put on notice by the court that the government need not consider their emotions in deciding whether or not to license atomic power plants. But public pressures on government officials, lawmakers, and other decisionmakers to oppose nuclear sitings as well as litigation are not likely to abate as a result of this decision.

The high court also smoothed the way for more third-party bids for the White House by striking down Ohio's early filing deadline for independent candidates for president. The justices, 5 to 4, reversed a ruling upholding the deadline that was challenged by John Anderson, former Republican congressman from Illinois and a 1980 presidential candidate.

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