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Public Citizen Opposes Nuclear Fuel Company’s Effort to Evade Scrutiny in NRC Licensing Hearing

Oct. 23, 2002

Public Citizen Opposes Nuclear Fuel Company’s Effort to Evade Scrutiny in NRC Licensing Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Louisiana Energy Services (LES), a nuclear energy consortium hoping to construct a uranium enrichment facility in Hartsville, Tenn., should not be permitted to manipulate the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) licensing procedure, Public Citizen said today.

LES has submitted to the NRC so-called “white papers,” which propose that the agency limit its consideration of contentious issues so as to expedite the licensure of its dangerous project.

The large, multinational energy industry consortium experienced great difficulty in its previous attempt to obtain a license from the NRC to build a uranium enrichment plant near the rural town of Homer, La. The licensing process lasted nearly a decade, during which NRC’s licensing board found that LES failed to meet a number of important qualifications. Among other things, the board found that the company’s site selection was indicative of environmental racism and that LES failed to meet certain financial qualifications.

Now, LES has revived its effort to construct a uranium enrichment facility, this time turning to Hartsville, and it is asking the NRC to limit its consideration of the kinds of issues that blocked the previous project. On Oct. 2, the NRC announced a 30-day public comment on the LES white papers.

“The NRC should have immediately dismissed the LES white papers as an entirely inappropriate attempt to hijack the licensing process,” wrote Public Citizen in comments filed with the NRC today. “It is extremely disconcerting that the NRC seems to be relinquishing its role and duty as a regulator of the nuclear industry, instead capitulating to the demands of LES for a slick and easy licensing process.”

The white papers, submitted to the NRC in April, concern six specific issues that have either hindered the success of LES’ previous license applications or that LES foresees as being potentially problematic in its upcoming license application. The documents contain LES’ request that the NRC either ignore or limit consideration of certain highly contentious issues, such as environmental justice, financial qualifications and waste disposition, to avoid delays or roadblocks.

For instance, LES wrote that “environmental justice contentions continue to require inordinate time and effort to resolve. . . . we recommend that the [NRC]…define the parameters of [environmental justice] issues that may be considered in any such proceeding.”

“If the NRC were to adhere to the LES white papers, it would further undermine the agency’s already shaky integrity,” said Joseph Malherek, policy analyst with Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “These requests by LES should be summarily dismissed.”

Click here to view Public Citizen’s comments.