The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

New Mexico Uranium Enrichment Plant Faces Challenge

by Brendan Coyne

Aug. 8, 2005 – Two public interest groups have joined in efforts to halt or alter plans for a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico out of concern that radioactive waste storage and transportation plans are "seriously flawed."

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In a joint statement Friday, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), an energy and environmental education and organizing group, warned that the investors behind the proposal had not taken public concerns over the transport and storage of depleted uranium seriously.

Louisiana Energy Services, a European-led consortium of six nuclear energy firms, is proposing to build and operate a uranium enrichment facility just two miles from the Texas border and about five miles outside of Eunice, NM. The plant would provide fuel to the nation’s nuclear power facilities and produce depleted uranium as waste.

The consortium has been attempting to find a location for a US-based private uranium enrichment plan since the 1990s, according to NIRS. The first proposed spot was in Louisiana, but public opposition forced the group to move on to Tennessee, finally landing in Eastern New Mexico.

Along the way, public interest and grassroots community groups have questioned the depleted uranium storage and transport plans. According to a report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), an organization billing itself as an advocate of "democratic science," LES has failed to develop an effective and safe plan during the decade it has sought to establish operations here.

Depleted uranium, infamous for its use in armor-piercing munitions, is a radioactive heavy metal and a known carcinogen.

Officials of the Regulatory Commission met throughout last week in and about the proposed site. An earlier Commission study of the site and proposal found the dangers "small to moderate," saying that an accident would result in an estimated seven cancer deaths, the Free New Mexican reported.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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