AG office wants in on NRC hearing
By Ruth Friedberg
Odessa American
April 21, 2004


LEA COUNTY, N.M. Concerns about how a proposed uranium enrichment facility near Eunice, N.M., will dispose of its waste have prompted the New Mexico Attorney General's Office and others to file for standing in an upcoming Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on the plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not set a date for the hearing yet.

Washington, D.C.-based organizations Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service have filed a combined petition with the NRC. The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has filed separately as has the New Mexico Environment Department.

"The waste is really the concern," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington.

Mariotte said people fear waste from the plant will stay on the site and be a danger to them. He said waste from the plant will be UF6, or uranium hexafluoride, a dangerous substance.

According to a news release from Public Citizen and the organizations joined with it, "the license application presented by LES (Louisiana Energy Services) is replete with inaccuracies and blatant omissions."

"We intend to call LES to task on these deficiencies," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Energy and Environment program. Marshall Cohen, vice president of communications and government for LES, which wants to build the National Enrichment Facility near Eunice, said the corporation is analyzing the petitions to intervene and will be responding to the issues raised in them.

Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service have followed LES' efforts to build a uranium enrichment plant for many years. "We don't think the case has been made that this plant is necessary," Hauter said.

Mariotte said there is no place in the country to dispose of uranium hexafluoride. To deplete it, Mariotte said the hydrogen fluoride can be stripped out of UF6, but you have to have the facility to do it.

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to build two facilities to deplete uranium in Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky.

Hauter said there are many site issues with the proposed plant:

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has the following concerns: