BILL RICHARDSON - GOVERNOR|
State of New Mexico
Office of the Secretary
Harold Runnels Building
1190 St. Francis Drive, P.O. Box 26110
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502-6110
Telephone (505) 827-2855
Fax (505) 827-2836
RON CURRY - SECRETARY
DERRITH WATCHMAN-MOORE - DEPUTY SECRETARY
May 12, 2004 Contact: Jon Goldstein, NMED Communications Dir.
Immediate Release Phone: (505) 827-0314
Governor Richardson, Environment Department Petition NRC for Strong State Involvement in Licensing of Proposed Uranium Enrichment Facility
(Santa Fe, NM) — Governor Bill Richardson has requested that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) grant the state the ability to fully participate in all hearings concerning the NRC license application for the proposed Louisiana Energy Services (LES) uranium enrichment facility in Lea County. The Governor's request came in a letter to NRC Chairman Dr. Nils J. Diaz.
"I hope that the State will have an opportunity to participate fully in this proceeding," Governor Richardson wrote to Dr. Diaz. "In particular, the State wants to ensure that the depleted uranium byproduct generated by the facility is safely disposed of. As the State in which LES proposes to locate, New Mexico should be entitled to put forth its positions on these important issues in the proceeding before the NRC."
The State of New Mexico through the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has filed a petition with the NRC seeking full legal standing for the State of New Mexico in all hearings on the proposed facility. This will give the state's representatives the right to raise issues important to New Mexico, ask questions and cross-examine witnesses. LES is seeking NRC approval to build the plant east of the town of Eunice in southeastern New Mexico.
"We want to ensure that the people of New Mexico have a seat at the table during these NRC proceedings," said NMED Secretary Ron Curry. "Only through this sort of involvement will we be able to ensure that issues important to New Mexicans are clarified."
On Monday the state augmented its filing with NRC, again stressing the important issue of waste treatment and disposal. This filing is a reply to the NRC's Staff Report which, while suggesting the state be granted the right to intervene, recommended that the NRC leadership not admit the state's waste contention.
In its NRC application, LES requests to be allowed to buildup or store depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) waste in New Mexico throughout the expected 30-year life of the facility. However, LES has committed to only store "a few years' worth" of waste. To prevent the possible creation of a legacy stockpile, the state would like to ensure that waste be moved out of New Mexico in a regular, timely fashion.
"LES' [waste] strategy contains strong elements of speculation and does not factor in major uncertainties surrounding the disposition of LES-generated DUF6," NMED wrote in its May 10th filing. "NMED's contention—that LES has not proposed a plausible strategy for treatment and disposition of the DUF6 and that LES has not adequately addressed the health and safety issues associated with long term storage of [depleted uranium] DU tails—falls squarely within the scope of these proceedings…"
Based upon this issue, NMED has requested that the NRC hold a full and complete public hearing on this license application and grant NMED the request to intervene in order to raise this issue for the State of New Mexico. The NRC is expected to rule on this petition in the next 30 to 60 days. In a separate filing with the NRC, LES has stated that it does not object to the admission of this contention.
"I am pleased with LES' cooperation on this issue," said Secretary Curry. "More information on the waste issue is vital to ensuring that human health and the environment are fully protected."
For further information contact Jon Goldstein, Communications Director, NMED at (505) 827-0314.