WASHINGTON, D.C. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Public Citizentwo groups engaged in a legal intervention against a company seeking a license to build a uranium enrichment plant in New Mexicotoday asked an adjudicatory board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend the licensing case schedule as long as official documents relating to the case remain inaccessible due to a security review being conduced by the NRC, the primary regulator of the nuclear industry.
On Oct. 25, the NRC blocked public access to virtually all of the electronic documents posted on its Web site pending a security review “to ensure that documents which might provide assistance to terrorists will be inaccessible.” Included among those documents is the license application of Louisiana Energy Services (LES), the subject of dispute in this case. Additionally, all other case-related documents in the hearing file have been rendered unavailable to the public.
Despite this, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) that is governing the case has yet to suspend or delay the hearing schedule deadlines to ensure that interested parties have access to all relevant documents that are needed to file timely and complete motions, briefs and legal testimony. Pre-filed testimony is due Dec. 30, and the hearing is scheduled to begin Feb. 7, 2005.
“The effect of this information blackout is to marginalize the citizen intervenors in this case,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “How can we be expected to prepare meaningful testimony when we have been denied access to the most basic information in this case?”
In their motion, the groups complain that the NRC is in breach of rules and regulations. As a remedy, the groups propose a suspension of the scheduled proceedings until 30 days after essential case documents are once again available.
“This is a blatant violation of regulatory procedure and the Commission’s own established rules governing this case,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS. “It is inexcusable that the NRC has kept these documents unavailable for this long while proceeding with deadlines in this case. Short of a complete and immediate restoration of public access to these documents, the only solution is a suspension of the proceeding.”
LES is a multinational consortium of energy companies led by the European firm Urenco. It has been seeking a license for a domestic uranium enrichment facility for more than a decade.