New Group Fights Nuke Factory Plan
By John Fleck
Albuquerque Journal
November 4, 2003

A new organization has formed in southeastern New Mexico to raise environmental concerns about a nuclear fuel factory proposed in the Eunice area.

The leader of Citizens Nuclear Information Center said the history of Louisiana Energy Services makes him leery of the company's proposal to build a factory near Hobbs.

In a news release and an interview Monday, retired businessman Lee Cheney said that despite the potential economic benefits of the plant, problems associated with the it "are too serious to ignore."

Cheney noted that LES proposed similar projects in Louisiana and Tennessee that were abandoned because of community opposition.

Among the most serious problems, according to Cheney, is that there is no plan yet for disposal of the factory's radioactive waste.

LES has said the waste will not be left permanently in New Mexico, but Cheney pointed out there is as yet no legally licensed facility to take the waste.

LES spokesman Marshall Cohen could not be reached for comment Monday. But in a September letter to Gov. Bill Richardson, company president James Ferland promised the waste would not be dumped or left in New Mexico when the plant is finished operating.

The proposed billion-dollar National Enrichment Facility would process uranium so it can be used in nuclear power plant fuel.

The international consortium hoping to build the plant, led by the European nuclear giant Urenco, picked New Mexico after opposition stalled efforts in Tennessee.

Cheney admitted that in opposing the plant he is running against a current of powerful local support from local civic leaders. "I feel like a salmon," he said.

Some landlords would not rent him office space for his new organization, he said.

LES is currently preparing a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license application. Company officials expect NRC approval to take at least two years, with an additional five to seven years for construction.

Back to LES index