LES won't make public 'short list' for enrichment facility

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Louisiana Energy Services will not make public its "short list" of potential sites for a $1.1 billion uranium enrichment facility, but will announce the final site selected by Sept. 15, Peter Lenny of Urenco said Friday.
   LES, a consortium made up of Urenco, Fluor-Daniel and affiliates of Exelon, Entergy and Duke utility companies, is in the process of setting up an office in Washington, D.C., according to Nan Kilkeary, who has been named public relations officer for LES. Westinghouse Electric Co., and Cameco Corp. of Ontario, Canada, also are negotiating partnership status, Kilkeary said.
   LES was expected to announce its short list last week -- a list which is believed to include locations in Unicoi County, Lynchburg, Va., and Wilmington, N.C.
   However, Lenny said, "I think there is some misinterpretation of what we intend to announce. We probably will have a disclosure to the NRC of our short list but that will be made available to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The actual announcement will only be made with respect to the final site, and that will take place sometime between now and Sept. 15."
   Rod Krich of Exelon told the STAR, "We can't just come out with it. We have to coordinate with a lot of different entities -- the local people and so on -- so we need to put that plan in place, which we are working on. Then we would notify all of the proper agencies, including the NRC, and at the same time go public."
   Krich said the announcement will come from George Dials, who recently was named president of LES. Dials holds degrees from both West Point and MIT and has held senior positions in the nuclear industry in both the government and private sectors. Dials was executive director of the former Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project contractor TRW Environmental Safety Systems Inc.
   Kilkeary said various regulatory agencies need to be informed before the final LES site is announced. "But at any rate, we don't want to set people's expectations in an unreasonable way, so we're just going to announce the finals. We'd like it to be earlier rather than later, but it's a very technical process. It isn't just, 'Oh, gee, this is a nice town, I think we'll come here' -- we have a lot of criteria to evaluate against."
   Kilkeary also said that despite local opposition to locating the enrichment plant in Unicoi, "We find there are more people who want the facility than don't."
   Urenco's Lenny said opposition to the LES facility in Unicoi is "unfortunate. I can understand why people have an interest in this, but you really need to get the facts, and it takes time to do these things, unfortunately.
   "We have to handle this in a very controlled and very objective manner. If people pick up rumors that an area is being considered simply because they have heard that somebody has talked to some official about some interest in getting some data on an area -- unfortunately, I guess, this happens sometimes. People start putting two and two together and coming up with eight.
   "I'd love to be able to say something, but we are constrained by the process that we're in, and we just can't say anything. It's sort of 'damned if you do, and damned if you don't' on this kind of thing."
   Exelon's Krich also expressed dismay at the situation in Unicoi, which has pitted Citizens for the Preservation of Valley Beautiful against some town officials.
   "I feel badly that people should get so worked up without having any real information to go on," Krich said.