NFS opposes extension for public response

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   An attorney representing Nuclear Fuel Services has filed a motion asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny a request to extend public response to the company's third license amendment request for the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Complex in Erwin.
   Kathy Helms-Hughes filed a motion with the NRC on Dec. 31 requesting an extension of time of 60 days, until Tuesday, March 23, 2004, for the public to file responses to the third segment of a license amendment request by NRC for the BLEU Complex, specifically the Oxide Conversion Building and Effluent Processing Building.
   Washington, D.C.. attorney Daryl Shapiro representing NFS filed a motion on Monday opposing the motion by Helms-Hughes. Shapiro's motion requests NRC to reject a 30-day extension arguing that the Code of Federal Regulations "explicitly provides only 30 days to file hearing requests in Subpart L proceedings" for which Federal Register notice is provided.
   "Ms. Helms-Hughes requests an additional 60 days (i.e., a total of 90 days) for "the public" to file requests for a hearing on the third license amendment application, on the grounds that the Federal Register notice was published on Christmas Eve and thus the observation of the Christmas and New Year's holidays detracted from the time available to review the application and file a request," Shapiro's filing reads.
   "Given this circumstance, NFS submits that a 10-day extension for any petitioner would be appropriate," Shapiro's filing reads and characterizes Helms-Hughes' request for an additional 60 days as "excessive and inconsistent" with federal regulations.
   Shapiro's response states that "Ms. Helms-Hughes provides no reason for upsetting this balance by tripling the amount of time normally available for petitioners to file hearing requests."
   Helms-Hughes is one of two petitioners seeking standing to have a public hearing regarding the BLEU Project. Fifteen Northeast Tennessee citizens represented by Greeneville attorney Todd Chapman have also filed separate petitions. Attorneys for NFS have asked the NRC to deny petitioners' requests for a hearing, stating that none of them had demonstrated "standing" or "injury in fact".
   A filing submitted Tuesday by attorney Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., supports Helms-Hughes position saying that more than 30 days' time is needed to review this complex and voluminous license amendment application, and to evaluate its relationship to the two license amendment applications that preceded it.
   Curran filed the petition on behalf of Friends of the Nolichucky River Valley, the State of Franklin Group of the Sierra Club, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, and Tennessee Environmental Council.
   The NRC received Nuclear Fuel Services' third license amendment application for the proposed BLEU Project on October 23, 2003. Subsequently, NFS supplemented the application with revisions to its emergency plan and fundamental nuclear material control plan (Oct. 24, 2003); a revision to its security plan (Nov. 3, 2003); and a Safety Analysis Summary (Nov. 14, 2003). The third license amendment application requests the authority to convert uranyl nitrate solutions to uranium dioxide powder and conduct associated effluent processing.
   "Inexplicably, the NRC waited until December 24, 2003 -- Christmas Eve -- to publish a notice of opportunity to request a hearing on the NFS application," Curran's filing reads.
   "At that time, petitioners' counsel had left the office for a week-long visit to out-of-town family members, and many of petitioners' members were out of town on holidays. In addition, the offices of Petitioners' expert consultants were closed."
   The filing reads that the petitioners submit that the publication of a 30-day hearing notice on the eve of a federal holiday created "an unreasonable and unnecessary hardship for petitioners and others who wish to seek a hearing on the BLEU project." As a result of the timing of the notice, Curran's filing submits that petitioners lost more than a week of time they would otherwise have had to review the application, collect standing declarations, and prepare a hearing request. Petitioners also anticipate that they may need to make special arrangements to obtain proprietary portions of some of these documents.
   "Therefore, the requested extension of 60 days is appropriate and necessary. At the very least, the Secretary should extend the time period by an additional thirty days, to February 23, 2004," Curran writes.
   Presiding Judge Alan S. Rosenthal with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel for the NRC in Washington, D.C., was expected to render a decision on the petitioners' standing after NFS submitted its third license amendment request.