The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Public Citizen have asked for Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Edward McGaffigan to recuse himself from all decisions involving the groups’ pending litigation against the proposed Louisiana Energy Services (LES) uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico.
In a motion filed late May 24, the groups cited Commissioner McGaffigan’s clear bias against NIRS, as evidenced in comments he made at a public NRC meeting on May 2, 2006. At that meeting, McGaffigan responded to comments made by NIRS staffer Paul Gunter, who was participating by NRC invitation, by describing NIRS as the “Nuclear Disinformation and Resource Service,” said NIRS specializes in “factoids and irrelevant facts,” and said NIRS is an “extreme” organization.
McGaffigan also disparaged NIRS/Public Citizen’s lead expert witness in the LES case, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) president Arjun Makhijani as “another person who doesn’t know anything about radiation,” despite the fact that NRC’s own Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards have acknowledged Makhijani as an expert in the field.
“Commissioner McGaffigan has an irrefutable, unwarranted, and frankly unexplainable bias against NIRS and our expert,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS, “and thus should recuse himself from this case.”
“Rational people and scientists can, and often do, disagree on nuclear issues and the scientific and technical issues involved in a case as complex as that concerning the proposed Louisiana Energy Services uranium enrichment plant. That’s precisely why the NRC established a legal process to determine the validity of arguments presented by groups like NIRS and Public Citizen,” added Michele Boyd, legislative director for Public Citizen.
“The NRC Commissioners are the appeals body for Licensing Board decisions, and thus must not give even the appearance of pre-judging complex technical issues. Unfortunately, Commissioner McGaffigan clearly has a pre-existing bias against NIRS and our expert, making it impossible for him to render an impartial decision,” explained Mariotte.
“We make this motion reluctantly, but necessarily, to protect the interests of our members in the area near the proposed LES plant who are concerned about the vast quantities of toxic radioactive waste the facility would produce and store in their neighborhood,” said Mariotte.
“We trust that Commissioner McGaffigan will do the right thing, and recuse himself from all legal cases involving NIRS for the remainder of his term,” added Mariotte.
Louisiana Energy Services, a subsidiary of the European firm Urenco, has applied for a license to build and operate a private uranium enrichment plant in Eunice, New Mexico, near the Texas border.
This is LES’ third attempt to build such a facility. The first two, at Homer, Louisiana and Hartsville, Tennessee, were blocked by local citizen opposition.
NIRS and Public Citizen intervened in legal proceedings against the license, citingamong other issuesLES’ failure to provide adequate plans for disposal of the large amounts of radioactive and hazardous waste the plant would produce and the NRC’s own failure to establish regulations for this waste sufficient to protect public health and safety.
There are many more issues involving this proposed facility, which NIRS and Public Citizen adamantly oppose, including nuclear proliferation, Urenco/LES’ corporate record and structure, environmental justice, decommissioning costs, etc. More information about the issues can be found at http://www.nirs.org/les/lesbackgrnd.htm.