Talking Points on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
For the Uranium Enrichment Facility Proposed by
Louisiana Energy Services for Lea County, NM

In 2003, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) proposed the National Enrichment Facility (NEF) to be located near Eunice, New Mexico in Lea County, near the southeastern corner of the state. Uranium enrichment is a process by which natural uranium is separated into its component isotopes. Uranium-235, or enriched uranium, is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Uranium-238, or depleted uranium, is waste.

In September 2004, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is responsible for issuing an operating license for the facility, released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Comments on the DEIS will be collected through a public meeting to be held in Eunice on October 14, 2004, and by mail or email through November 6, 2004.

The DEIS addresses the environmental impacts expected as a result of construction and operation of the facility, particularly their effects on land, air quality, surface water, ground water, ecological resources, socioeconomics, environmental justice, worker safety and public health and safety.

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety provides the following talking points about the DEIS:

  • The statement of Purpose and Need for the facility, found in the Executive Summary of the DEIS, states that "only about 15 and 14 percent of the enrichment services that were purchased by U.S. nuclear reactors in 2002 and 2003, respectively, were provided by enrichment plants located in the [U.S.]." (pg. xix). Later, the DEIS states, "[United States Enrichment Corporation which operates uranium enrichment facilities in Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky] provides approximately 56 percent of the U.S. enrichment market needs." (pg. 1-4). This is an obvious discrepancy. We request that NRC not only clarify the amount of domestically produced enriched uranium currently used, but also indicate the specific foreign sources of the enriched uranium on which the U.S. currently relies.

  • Assuming peak production at the NEF during the entire projected 30-year lifetime of the facility, a generous estimate, the NEF would produce 3,270,000 separative work units (SWUs) of enriched uranium per year. (pg. 2-6). This represents an average of approximately 24% of the total enriched uranium required for the U.S. as estimated by the Energy Information Agency. (pg. 1-4). This number will be far smaller considering that NEF will reach peak operating capacity for only 14 years, from 2013 to 2027. This means that, according to pg. 1-4, more than 20% of U.S. enriched uranium needs will continue to be fulfilled by foreign sources for at least 16 years during the lifetime of the facility. Given this information, please explain how NEF is anticipated to increase U.S. independence from foreign enriched uranium sources. Please provide a table showing the total estimated amount of enriched uranium that will be required for U.S. energy production by year as compared to the amount that will be produced by NEF.

    The DEIS states that nuclear generating capacity is going to increase by 2020, which would further dilute the effect that the NEF will have on creating U.S. energy independence. (pg. 4-73). What is the total yearly percentage of U.S. enriched uranium supply that the NEF is expected to produce?

  • LES has argued that impacts on the Eunice and Hobbs municipal water systems would be minimal given that the facility would use an average 72 acre-feet of water per year. This argument, while technically correct, is disingenuous. The DEIS states, the average and peak potable water requirements for operation of the proposed NEF would be approximately 63,423 gallons per day average and 539,000 gallons per day at peak operation. (2-14). Therefore, during 14 years of peak operation, from 2013 to 2027, NEF will be using nearly 604 acre-feet of water per year, according to the DEIS.

    Although the DEIS estimates that the impacts of the NEF on the Eunice and Hobbs water supplies will be small, the DEIS does not clarify if this determination is made according to the 72 acre-feet per year average estimate, or 604 acre-feet per year peak estimate. The DEIS must include a detailed, yearly water usage plan for the NEF, incorporating the impacts of the NEF according to its actual usage and future water demand and availability.

  • Although the Claiborne Enrichment Facility, proposed for Homer, Louisiana, is referenced multiple times throughout the document, Section, Alternative Sites (pg. 2-34), does not address Homer, Louisiana as a potential site or the reasons its for being rejected. Please include Homer, Louisiana as a potential site for the NEF and an account of the reasons that it was rejected as a potential location for the NEF.

  • The Bellefonte, Alabama site was removed from consideration for location of the NEF because it would have necessitated relocating high-voltage transmission lines that cross the proposed site. (pg. 2-38). Similarly, the Lea County, New Mexico site would necessitate relocation of a high-pressure carbon dioxide pipeline that crosses the site. Why does this fact not remove the Lea County, NM site from consideration? How will this relocation be funded and what will the environmental impacts from this relocation be?

  • In the analysis of Environmental Justice impacts of the proposed NEF, the DEIS states, "It should be noted that for this analysis, the State was used as the area of geographic comparison." (pg. 3-62). We request that the final EIS evaluate environmental justice issues in geographic comparison with national rates given that the NEF is a project that was considered for multiple sites nationwide, not only in the State of New Mexico. Residents of the State of New Mexico must be assured that the site was not chosen for its abnormally high minority and low-income populations, which in the area of influence, represents 48.3% and 20% of the population respectively. Compared with national averages of 30.9% and 12.4% respectively, it is clear that Lea County is home to a disproportionately large number of minority and low-income community members and thus will be impacted disproportionately by the construction and operation of the NEF. NRC must justify its claim on pg. 4-26 that environmental justice impacts would be small.

  • In Section, Operations: Employment and Economic Activity, the DEIS states, "Ten percent of the positions are expected to be in management, 20 percent in professional occupations, 60 percent in various skilled positions and 10 percent in administrative positions." (pg. 4-21). According to these percentages, the average 210 permanent operating employees would consist of 21 managers, 62 professional employees, 126 skilled employees and 21 administrators. The DEIS states that this is approximately 1% of the workforce in Lea, Andrews and Gaines Counties, and thus the NEF would have a moderate impact on the socioeconomics of the area.

    However, as much as 60% of the workforce is expected to come from outside of the area of influence, according the DEIS, which states, "The majority of these higher paying skilled jobs would be expected to be filled outside of the immediate area surrounding the proposed site, but within the [75-mile] region of influence...." (pg. 4-19). A 75-mile radius around the site would include Eddy and Chavez Counties in New Mexico and Cochran, Culberson, Davison, Ecktor, Hockley, Loving, Lynne, Martin, Midland, Reeves, Terry, Yoakum and Winkler Counties in Texas. Therefore, given that these counties may provide the majority of the workforce, they must be included in the area of socioeconomic impact, which may effect the 1% figure mentioned above and thus the impact estimated by NRC.

  • In Section, Employment and Economic Activity Mitigation Measures, the DEIS states, "Educational programs coordinated by LES with local colleges would help develop a pool of qualified local workers." (pg. 4-22). This measure is an effort to draw more highly skilled technical workers from the area. Please include any communiqué between local colleges and LES in developing these educational programs. Also, please document the capacity for these local colleges to train the workforce in nuclear materials handling and uranium enrichment processes. Are these local colleges prepared to handle such curriculum? If not, when will they be and how will those preparations be funded?

  • In its discussion of radiological shipments by truck, the DEIS mentions Envirocare in Utah and U.S. Ecology in Richland, Washington as two potential sites to which to ship the triuranium octaoxide (U3O8) produced as a result of conversion of depleted uranium hexafluoride at the potential conversion facility at ConverDyne in Metropolis, Illinois. The DEIS does not indicate that negotiations between LES and any of these facilities are underway. Without the consent and participation of these facilities, there is no viable solution to the waste problem that NEF presents. The State of New Mexico, and the citizens it represents, has asked multiple times that an NRC operating license not be granted to LES unless a viable waste solution is presented.

    A thorough, complete and feasible waste solution must be included in the final EIS, including all negotiations between LES and the facilities that will be converting and disposing of the large quantities of waste.

  • The DEIS mentions several times the possibility of locating a depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion facility near the NEF. (pg. 2-30). We believe that this option is far too uncertain to be considered an option for conversion. Further, such a requirement would not fulfill the requirements of the State of New Mexico, as the waste from the NEF would remain in New Mexico, but moved offsite. This proposal is not a sufficient conversion option and should not be considered further.

  • The DEIS states that the evaporative ponds and retention basins around the site will create pools of perched water in the ground beneath the site. (pg. 4-13). The water is not expected to migrate and LES estimates, optimistically, that most of it will be absorbed in the root systems of vegetation in the area. However, will there be a method for monitoring the perched water created by these ponds? NRC must include this information in Section 6, Environmental Measurements and Monitoring Programs.

  • The DEIS states, "Each year, the proposed NEF would submit a summary report of the Environmental Sampling Program to NRC." (pg. 6-14). How will this information be made available to the State of New Mexico and the public? How will the State of New Mexico and the public participate in environmental oversight of the facility?

  • The DEIS states, "The limits [on chemical discharges] would be specified in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Discharge Permits as well as the New Mexico Environment Department/Water Quality Bureau-Water Discharge Permit/Plan. Therefore this [DEIS] does not specify administrative action levels for physiochemical constituents." (pg. 6-15). LES must consult with EPA Region 6 and the New Mexico Environment Department prior to the production of the final EIS, determine the administrative action levels for physiochemical constituents according to each agency and report those levels for NRC to consider when determining whether to license this facility. Without this information, impacts of the NEF on surface and ground water resources is incomplete, and therefore NRC cannot adequately determine whether to license the facility.

  • The DEIS states regarding effluent monitoring, which includes air and water, "Corrective actions would be instituted when an administrative action level is exceeded for any of the measured parameters...." (pg. 6-19). What agency will oversee these corrective actions and what will these corrective actions be? Is there a mechanism in place for an operating license to be suspended or revoked? Please clarify what safeguards are in place should environmental emissions of radioactive and hazardous constituents exceed federal and/or state regulatory standards.

  • Would environmental monitoring at the NEF site continue beyond decontaminating and decommissioning? Who would be responsible for long-term stewardship of the site?

  • In Section 7, Cost-Benefit Analysis (pg. 7-5), the DEIS states that DUF6 disposition will cost approximately $5.50 per 2.2 pounds or $731 million in 2002 dollars. In order to gauge accurately the benefit of the NEF, NRC must also include the amount of enriched uranium estimated to be produced by the facility and the amount of money LES anticipates that it will earn through its sale per pound.

  • The DEIS indicates that ConverDyne and U.S. Ecology were not consulted in the production of the DEIS. (pg. 8-3) If their facilities are considered options for conversion and disposal, should they not be consulted in the production of this document? They must be consulted in the production of the final EIS and their response to LES's proposals must be included.

  • The DEIS overlooks a critical comment received during its scoping period, which recommends that LES and NRC consult the Western Interstate Energy Board, which is responsible for communication and cooperation among its membership with specific regard to the development and management of nuclear energy products. (Scoping Summary Report, pg. 11) Why was this Board not consulted? We reiterate the request that the Board be consulted and their analysis of the proposal be included in the final EIS.

Many issues that must be considered before the NEF is licensed, including security and local emergency preparedness, will be included in the Safety Evaluation Report to be released in June 2005.

Written comments can be submitted to:

Chief, Rules and Directives Branch
Division of Administrative Services
Mailstop: T-6D59
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555-0001

October 13, 2004

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