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Diane Curran, Attorney

Since 1981, Diane has represented citizen groups, state and local governments, and individuals in a wide range of licensing and enforcement cases relating to nuclear facilities.  A nationally recognized expert in the field of nuclear safety and security regulation, Diane has spent her career litigating the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and other public safety and environmental protection laws in administrative proceedings before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and judicial appeals to the federal court system.   

In NRC licensing cases and federal court appeals, Diane has won significant improvements to the NRC’s regulation of public health and safety, security and environmental protection.  Major victories include:   

  • In 2012, Diane and NRDC co-counsel Geoff Fettus won a ground-breaking decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that vacated and reversed the NRC’s decades-old “Waste Confidence Rule.”  The Court ordered NRC to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the long-term environmental effects of storing spent nuclear reactor fuel at reactor sites.  The decision requires the NRC to determine the safety of allowing nuclear reactors to produce radioactive nuclear waste, including the potential environmental effects of the failure to develop a nuclear fuel repository.
  • After the Court issued its Waste Confidence decision, Diane successfully petitioned the NRC Commissioners to suspend all pending reactor licensing and re-licensing decisions until 2014 when the Waste Confidence EIS is issued. 
  • In 2012, Diane won a decision from the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that halted licensing of a new plutonium processing facility until the applicant provides more information about its plans for detecting loss or theft of plutonium. 
  • In 2006, Diane won a landmark post-9/11 decision before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, requiring the NRC to evaluate the environmental and safety impacts of an attack on a proposed spent fuel storage facility at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. 
  • In collaboration with Nathalie Walker of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Diane won one of the first environmental justice victories in the U.S.:  denial of a license for a new uranium enrichment facility for failure to address the facility’s disparate impacts on a minority community.  
  • Diane’s litigation against re-licensing of a grossly contaminated uranium processing plant in Oklahoma was a key factor forcing the shutdown of the facility.  
  • In 1991, the aging Yankee Rowe closed after a petition by Diane and Union of Concerned Scientists showed the reactor vessel failed to meet NRC safety standards.  

Diane has represented many national and regional environmental organizations, including Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, Friends of the Earth, Georgia Women's Action for New Directions, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Native Americans for a Clean Environment, Nuclear Watch South, Riverkeeper, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, the Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Diane’s current and former government clients include the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the State of Utah; Eureka County, Nevada; and Orange County, North Carolina.   




Yale University, B.S. 1976

University of Maryland, J.D. 1981

List of Awards

2013 – Mother's Day for Peace Honoree from Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (Georgia WAND); Certificate of Honor from Alliance for Nuclear Accountability          

1997 – Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year, awarded by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice

Recent Press

Lawsuit Challenges NRC Rules on Waste Storage, by David McCumber in CT Post (Oct. 30, 2014)

Watchdogs Say NRC Rushing Nuclear Waste Report, by David McCumber in Rutland Herald (Jan. 13, 2013). 

Nuclear Waste:  Industry, Activists Gird for Fallout from Waste Debate, by Hannah Northey in E&E News (Aug. 10, 2012).

America's Nuclear Nightmare, by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone (April 27, 2011)

Status of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Question at Crippled Japanese Power Plant, by John Sullivan in Pro Publica (March 14, 2011).

Did the Nuclear Industry and Politicians Learn Anything from the BP Oil Spill?, by Zachary Shahan in CleanTechnica.com (June 24, 2010).


Helen Caldicott, Loving This Planet (The New Press: 2012).  

Author, The Re-Licensing of Nuclear Power Plants, in O'Very et al., Controlling the Atom in the 21st Century (NRDC/Westview Press: 1994)

Author, Silent Sirens: Report on 1992 Accident at Sequoyah Fuels Uranium Processing Facility (Native Americans for a Clean Envionment: 1993)

Author, The Public As Enemy: NRC Assaults on Public Participation in the Regulation of Operating Nuclear Power Plants (Union of Concerned Scientists: 1992).

Court Decisions and Briefs

Court decision vacating Waste Confidence rule, NRDC v. NRC, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012). 

Opening brief for Petitioners in NRDC v. NRC, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012). 

Court decision ordering NRC to consider environmental impacts of attacks on spent fuel storage facility, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. NRC, 449 F.3d 10176 (9th Cir. 2006). 

Opening brief for Petitioners in San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. NRC. 


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Diane Curran      



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