NRC to review BLEU project

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will meet with officials of Nuclear Fuel Services on Friday to present results of an inspection of a new Uranyl Nitrate Building associated with the company's proposed Blended Low-Enriched Uranium (BLEU) project.
   NFS has proposed to build a facility at the company's Erwin site which would take surplus high-enriched uranium from the Department of Energy and downblend it into low-enriched uranium which would be fabricated into fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors.
   Nuclear Fuel Services has requested two amendments to their Special Nuclear Material License to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to authorize modification to its special nuclear material processing operations in the BLEU Preparation facility.
   The BLEU Project involves the down-blending of 33 metric tons of highly enriched, bomb-grade uranium from Cold War defense stockpiles into useful low enriched uranium fuel for TVA nuclear reactors to produce electricity.
   A consortium of environmental groups including the State of Franklin Sierra Club and Friends of the Nolichucky River Valley have challenged NFS's request to amend their licensing with NRC for the company's Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Project. Project opponents have challenged the company's amendment citing numerous public health and environmental risks potentially posed by the project.
   NFS submitted the first of three license amendments to the NRC on Feb. 28 to authorize the storage of low-enriched uranium at the UNB. The NRC issued a finding of "No Significant Impact" in July 2002.
   NFS will host and manage the building, which will be owned by Framatome ANP, an international engineering and nuclear services conglomerate with headquarters in Paris and principal subsidiaries in the United States and Germany. Framatome ANP is co-owned by AREVA and Siemens.
   The NRC has been conducting the Operational Readiness Review inspection of the UNB building since Monday. The NRC says it has made no decision at this time on the NFS request.
   The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at the NFS Training Center in Erwin, located on Jackson Love Highway near Exit 15 on Interstate 181. The meeting is open to observation by the public, and NRC officials will be available prior to its conclusion to answer questions from interested observers.