Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ID Weigh in On Areva's uranium plant


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should not have allowed Areva to level land, build roads and connect power lines to their proposed uranium enrichment plant before an environmental review is completed on the $3.3 billion facility, said Snake River Alliance energy policy analyst Liz Woodruff.

The NRC isn't considering the impacts of these "pre-construction activities" in its draft environmental impact statement - and these activities, including the destruction of an historic homestead, could threaten sage grouse and other desert species, she said.

"This pre-construction exemption shows a bias toward licensing," Woodruff said.

She was among the people at a public meeting of the nuclear commission in Boise on Monday that gave Treasure Valley residents a chance to speak about French energy giant Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Plant proposal.

The anti-nuclear group's presentation offered a road map to how that group and others may work in court to delay Areva's plans.

The Snake River Alliance had 14 demonstrators outside the Oxford Suites Hotel to greet the more than 125 people who came to the meeting, with signs that read "Enrich your cranium, not uranium."

Opponents generally outnumbered supporters, and Woodruff got a loud round of applause when she completed her talk.

The NRC staff has recommended the project move forward. The environmental impact statement could be finalized in early 2011 along with a separate safety analysis.

The license could be issued in early 2012, according to NRC staff.

Areva hopes the NRC will approve the project next year so it can begin construction. It plans to open in 2014.

Sara Cohn of the Idaho Conservation League said the NRC does not currently have rules for the waste - mostly depleted uranium - that will come from the enrichment technology.

"Until regulations are in place governing disposal of depleted uranium and disposal facilities have implemented those regulations, ICL believes it is inappropriate to license any new uranium enrichment facility," Cohn said.

"Economic costs, delays and safety issues all indicate this supposed 'renaissance' is unlikely," Woodruff said.

The Snake River Alliance, long the major voice against nuclear power in Idaho, had asked the NRC for the Boise meeting in addition to its meeting scheduled for Thursday in Idaho Falls. The group got support for the request from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

The plant would be built 18 miles west of Idaho Falls adjacent to the Idaho National Laboratory. The Department of Energy gave the project a major boost earlier this year when it approved $2 billion in loan guarantees.

In July, Otter awarded Bonneville County $500,000 from the Idaho Department of Commerce's Rural Community Block Grant program to build an overpass and other improvements on the roads used for the 4,000-acre Eagle Rock facility.

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