Petition filed in NFS license amendment

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
One of two petitioners seeking a public hearing on the Blended Low Enriched Uranium Project of Nuclear Fuel Services has filed a motion requesting the extension of public response period to the company's third licensing amendment request to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Kathy Helms-Hughes filed a motion Dec. 31, 2003 requesting an extension of time to 60 days, until Tuesday, March 23, 2004, for the public to file responses to NFS' third segment of a license amendment request for the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium (BLEU) Complex, specifically the Oxide Conversion Building and Effluent Processing Building.
Helms-Hughes cited a previous request for extension by NFS' legal counsel and the timeliness of the amendment's posting on the Federal Register by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Daryl Shapiro, attorney for NFS, in response, had filed a motion for a time extension on Dec. 4, 2002, citing as justifiable rationale that he received requests for a hearing by Friends of the Nolichucky River Valley, State of Franklin Group of the Sierra Club, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, and the Tennessee Environmental Council, on Nov. 27, 2002, another request by Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League on Nov. 29, 2002, and a request by Helms-Hughes, also on Nov. 29, 2002, in response to an Oct. 30, 2002, Federal Register notice regarding the NFS project.
NFS requested an extension of four days (two days regarding the Helms-Hughes request) because the requests were filed just before and during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The NRC granted Shapiro's request for a time extension.
Helms-Hughes' request for a time extension is based on the same premise afforded NFS, according to her filing. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission received a letter dated Oct. 23, 2003, a request from NFS to amend its Special Nuclear Materials License SNM-124 to authorize processing operations in the Oxide Conversion Building and the Effluent Processing Building at the BLEU Complex.
The request is the third of three license amendment requests planned to support operations associated with downblending and conversion of high-enriched uranium materials to low-enriched uranium oxides.
The BLEU Complex is located on approximately five acres of land adjacent to NFS' normal processing area. The property lies approximately 800 to 1000 feet from the southeastern bank of the Nolichucky River, and is bounded by Carolina Avenue to the east, the CSX rail yard to the west, NFS to the north and the Studsvik Processing Area to the south.
Though the third license amendment request was received Oct. 23, 2003, it was not posted in the Federal Register for public review until Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2003.
Helms-Hughes' filing states, "Common sense and mass merchandising will tell you that the Christmas and New Year's holidays are quite possibly the most celebrated holidays by the American public during the calendar year. To submit such a document for such a potentially dangerous process at a time of the year when the majority of public attention is focused on family and freedom of worship, when many are traveling great distances to share in the holidays with their families rather than sitting in front of the computer checking Federal Register notices, is an action calculated to put the public and this public process at a disadvantage."
The petition requests NRC grant a time extension so that those affected by the outcome of these proceedings would have sufficient time to review the documentation filed by NFS.
Helms-Hughes filed a declaration on Nov. 29, 2002, requesting intervention and a hearing in the NFS case. The Friends of the Nolichucky River Valley, the State of Franklin Group of the Sierra Club, the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, and the Tennessee Environmental Council have also filed a petition seeking a public hearing. Administrative Law Judge Alan S. Rosenthal with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of NRC is expected to rule on the petitioners standing later this year after NFS submitted its third license amendment request.
The petitioners had sought to halt construction by NFS of any buildings intended for use as part the BLEU project at the NFS site in Erwin.
As part of NFS' license amendment request, Helms-Hughes also filed several supporting documents, including a 367-page Non-Proprietary Version of the Integrated Safety Analysis Summary on Nov. 14, 2003, and New Information Potentially Relevant and Material to Licensing Board Proceeding in the Matter Of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., on Nov. 24, 2003.
"The relevance of these documents also must be considered to present a full, comprehensive picture of this blend-down project, parts of which NFS admits in its severely lacking Environmental Assessment will rely on processes heretofore untried by the Applicant," the filing reads.
Helms-Hughes states in her filing that, "Because of the continued segmentation of this license amendment request by NFS in an apparent attempt to avoid producing an Environmental Impact Statement, which would delay the project beyond its targeted start-up time, it is vitally important that the segmentation of this project be dealt with in a manner that puts the requester at a disadvantage, rather than the public."
Though currently working in Arizona, Helms-Hughes' ancestral home and land -- which she now owns and where she has lived for the last five years -- are located in Butler, Tenn., less than 20 miles downwind of the NFS facility.
Therefore, her petition reads, Helms-Hughes is affected by the outcome of this decision. A representative for NRC did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment about the filing.