Two groups have filed suit in U.S. District Court here, seeking to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make public the transcripts of three plant-licensing hearings earlier this year that involved the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California.

The groups, the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and the Washington-based Nuclear Information and Resources Service, charged that the commission violated the Government in the Sunshine Act and the Freedom of Information Act by holding the closed-door meetings and then refusing to release the transcripts.

The meetings were held to discuss whether emergency planning done by California and local emergency officials took into account the potential impact if an earthquake occurred near the plant.

Frank Ingram, assistant to the director of the NRC's public affairs office, responded that the Sunshine Act allows agencies to close meetings to "conduct or dispose of a particular case." He added, "We followed the law."

Sandy Silver, a spokesman for the Mothers for Peace group, said in a statement that her group was not given an opportunity to comment on the off-site emergency plans at other NRC hearings.

"It is clear that to license Diablo Canyon, the commission had to ignore the fact that it the plan doesn't comply with the law," Silver said. "And in the process, the commission itself has apparently acted illegally. So, it's no wonder the commission is so adamantly opposed to the public seeing transcripts which document that fact."

Ingram said that off-site emergency plans usually are reviewed in open hearings and that the critics of the plan are allowed to testify against them.

"I really can't comment further on the suit," Ingram said. "I haven't seen it and I'm not sure our folk have ever seen the papers that have been filed."