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Court OK’s Licensing |Of N.M. Uranium Plant

WASHINGTON (CN) - The D.C. Circuit upheld the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision to license a new, privately owned uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico.

The NRC granted the first license in 30 years to Louisiana Energy Service for a plant near Eunice in southeast corner of the state that will make enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear reactors. At the licensing board, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service claimed that the NRC failed to properly assess the environmental hazards of radioactive waste disposal or submit a reasonable cost estimate for getting rid of it safely. These oversights violated the Atomic Energy Act and federal environmental law, NIRS claimed.

But in June 2006 the board authorized a 30-year license for the "construction and operation" of the plant, a decision the NRC let stand.

Judge Kavanaugh wrote that the NRC had "thoroughly considered" the environmental issues, and that the circuit had no reason to believe Louisiana Energy's disposal plan was unreasonable.

The court also held that NRC Commissioner Edward McGaffigan Jr., who passed away in September, was correct in refusing to disqualify himself from the decision for some of his remarks, such as calling the petitioner the "Nuclear Disinformation Resource Service." McGaffigan persuaded the judges that it was simply his style to "speak vigorously, sometimes colorfully" to "spark debate." See ruling.

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