The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is still
opposing the contentions raised by the state
Environment Department after the agency attempted to
submit more evidence in its petition to intervene in
the hearing process for Louisiana Energy Services.
Although the NRC can make recommendations to the
Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, this board is
ultimately responsible for deciding whether
contentions are valid during a hearing process for a
$1.8 billion uranium enrichment plant near Eunice.
Because the Office of the Attorney General and
Environment Department are state agencies, these
groups were automatically granted standing in the
hearing process after submitting petitions.
"The (NRC) staff contends that the reply filed by NMED
improperly seeks admission of new evidence and
contentions and, thus, should not be considered by the
Board in ruling on intervention," stated a document
the NRC issued Monday to the licensing board.
Environment Department spokesman Jon Goldstein said
the NRC's recommendation does not mean the state will
rest in pursuing its contentions. "We continue to
believe the points we have raised are valid ones and
we will continue to push them. We just have to wait
until we hear what the (Atomic Safety and Licensing
Board) decides," Goldstein said.
On May 20 the NRC approved standing for the only other
group that petitioned to intervene in the hearing
process - the Nuclear Information & Resource Service,
which filed a joint petition with Public Citizen. Both
groups are based in Washington, D.C.
To gain standing, the term for speaking at a licensing
board hearing, a petitioner must have at least one
admissible contention and must show it would be
affected or harmed by a nuclear project.
Regarding the requirement of being directly affected
by the project, the two Washington, D.C., groups have
about 10 members who live near the proposed plant
site, including several who live within a few miles of
it. There is no requirement stating that these groups'
members must live within a certain number of miles of
A pre-hearing conference is set to take place in the
Hobbs area June 15, though a specific time and place
for the conference has not been determined. The
conference is not expected to last more than two days.
The Environment Department had filed on May 10 its
reply to the NRC's earlier rejection to its
contentions, but the NRC stated the department did not
provide appropriate evidence.
"When this Board granted NMED an extension of time in
which to reply to the answers of the staff and LES, it
explicitly noted the Commission's direction that
replies should be focused on the legal or logical
arguments raised in the responses by the staff and
applicant. ... Contrary to those explicit directions,
the reply submitted by NMED fails to focus at all on
issues raised in the staff or LES answers.
Instead, NMED seeks to introduce entirely new
information and expert opinion under the guise of a
reply," the NRC document stated.
In its petition to intervene, the Environment
Department contended LES may store uranium byproduct
throughout the 30-year life of the plant despite this
not being acceptable to the state "and contrary to the
representations made by LES to the state."
The petition also claimed LES's proposed plan to store
byproduct is not sufficiently detailed and does not
demonstrate the issuance of a license would not hurt
the health and safety of the public. The NRC called
this contention vague with unsupported allegations in
its initial reply, and in its second reply stated the
department had not focused on the legal or logical
arguments presented in LES's application or the NRC's
"NMED has again failed to note any specific issue with
the LES application that would support the admission
of this contention," the NRC document stated.
The NRC also said the Environment Department
improperly sought the introduction of two new
contentions in its revised petition by arguing that
these were part of its initial byproduct contention.
"NMED's reply, however, which attempts to include two
new contentions by broadly re-framing the original
contention, is not the proper avenue to seek admission
of late-filed contentions," the NRC document stated.
Other Environment Department contentions the NRC had
previously recommended the licensing board should
A contention that LES may classify the byproduct as
resource material rather than waste material.
A contention that information regarding the economic
viability of the proposed plant has not been given.