Environmental Justice is the concept that major polluting projects should not have a disproportionate
impact on minority and poor communities.
Nuclear waste dumps, toxic incinerators, atomic reactors and other such facilities typically are located
where there is cheap land, cheap facilities, and little organized opposition. Too often, this has been in
minority and poor communities that have felt powerless to oppose corporate giants.
In February 1994, President Clinton issued an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to consider
environmental justice issues when issuing permits for new polluting facilities. Although as an independent
agency the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was exempt from that order, then-Chairman Ivan Selin committed the
NRC to implement the order. One result was a finding that the proposed Louisiana Energy Services uranium
enrichment plant for Homer, Louisiana, violated environmental justice principles, and it became the first
license applicant before the NRC ever to be denied a license.
Reeling from that blow—after all, one denial in 45,000 applications might indicate a trend, the nuclear
industry suggested to the NRC that it remove environmental justice from further licensing consideration.
The result is a new NRC policy that attempts to do just that.
Here is background on the environmental justice issue as it applies to nuclear power along with
current documents and periodic actions you can take to support environmental justice. In early 2004
for example, NIRS organized the sending of more than 700 postcard comments against the NRC’s proposed
environmental justice policy; we will continue to fight this policy, and work to ensure environmental
justice remains a major issue.
For more on principles of environmental justice, visit http://www.ejnet.org/ej.