Site list for LES plant to be announced next week

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Concerned citizens from Unicoi County who expected to learn Tuesday whether their community is on the "short list" of prospective sites for a $1.1 billion uranium enrichment facility will have to wait another week, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
   Following a meeting Tuesday with members of Louisiana Energy Services, the consortium which plans to build the plant, Tim Johnson of the NRC in Rockville, Md., said LES indicated it will announce a short list at the end of next week, with final site selection coming at the end of August.
   The proposed gas centrifuge facility, the first of its kind in the United States, will employ technology now used by Urenco -- the world's leading supplier of enrichment services based on gas centrifuge technology -- and will be modeled after its Almelo plant in The Netherlands. The LES consortium is made up of Urenco, Fluor-Daniel and affiliates of three utility companies: Exelon, Entergy and Duke.
   Cameco Corp. of Ontario, Canada, and Westinghouse Electric Co. recently reached an agreement to negotiate partnership status with the consortium, however, they have not been admitted as formal partners. "LES did indicate today that their goal is to do the negotiations [with Cameco and Westinghouse] for the partnership by the end of the calendar year," Johnson said Tuesday.
   NRC and LES representatives also discussed instrumentation and controls and LES's approach to doing an integrated safety assessment.
   "Instrumentation and controls is basically how they plan on controlling the plant and controlling the equipment that is needed for safety of workers and the public. An integrated safety assessment is an analysis that factors in chemical safety, industrial safety, and radiological safety all together," Johnson said.
   There was no discussion on procedures for the transfer of technology from the United Kingdom to the United States, according to Johnson.
   Though land near BWX Technologies in Lynchburg, Va., and Global Nuclear Fuels in Wilmington, N.C., have been mentioned as possible locations for the plant, in addition to approximately 100 acres near Nuclear Fuel Services Inc., in Unicoi, Johnson said LES has not mentioned anything specific other than "they're going to look at non-reactor nuclear facility sites." LES also wants to locate in a moderate climate with low seismic hazards, he said.
   "One of the advantages of going to a nuclear site is a lot of the site data has already been generated. The farther you move away from that site, the less the advantages are from that standpoint."
   The NRC is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the LES project "on an aggressive 18-month schedule" based on assumptions that the facility will be constructed on an existing nuclear site and that the design will be similar to one previously proposed for Claiborne Enrichment Center in Homer, La., but never built.
   Johnson said that while some of the accident analysis from the Homer environmental report possibly can be used to prepare the new EIS, "most of that stuff was very site specific. Certainly all of the characterization data at that site would not apply to another site. A lot of the accident analysis evaluates impacts to populations that are a certain distance away. In that respect, a different site would have different population densities and distances to the nearest residence. Those kinds of things would all be very site specific."
   The NRC and LES representatives will hold another preapplication meeting either at the end of the month or the first of September, according to Johnson.