Supreme Court Upholds Nuclear Regulatory Commission's License For Uranium Resources Inc.
By Kathy Helms
CHURCHROCK – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review an appeals court ruling which upheld Uranium Resources Inc.'s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct in situ leach uranium mining at its Churchrock/Crownpoint project.
In an order issued Monday, the high court refused to hear arguments from Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining and Southwest Research and Information Center, along with Navajo petitioners Grace Sam and Marilyn Morris from Pinedale Chapter.
The two organizations have been fighting the NRC, Uranium Resources Inc. and it's subsidiary, Hydro Resources Inc., for the last 16 years over protection of the community drinking water supply where the NRC has licensed the mining operation.
“Today’s announcement was significant in that it clears the last remaining legal challenge to our NRC license,” Don Ewigleben, URI president and CEO, said. “We have long maintained our belief that our license was valid and have continued to move forward toward the final development of the Churchrock/Crownpoint project.
“Our feasibility study is ongoing and in October, we filed the necessary documents with the NRC to reactivate our license, which is currently in timely renewal status. Once active, the license may be utilized according to its present terms and conditions while URI completes its license renewal. We will also continue to educate the community on the project, our focus on safety and the environment as well as the economic opportunity it creates for the area,” he said.
Petitioners questioned whether the NRC could ignore radioactive emissions from waste already present at the site in determining whether public radiation doses from new mining would exceed health and safety standards.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in March upheld the NRC’s decision that HRI does not have to clean up existing Cold War-era radioactive waste on its Churchrock Section 17 property, which includes the abandoned Old Church Rock Mine. Existing radioactive contamination is nine to 15 times the regulatory limit, according to court documents.
Eric Jantz of New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who filed for review on behalf of Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining and Southwest Research and Information Center, said though they didn't actually expect to get review, the court's decision was disappointing.
“But I will say the fight isn't over by a long shot, and I think the Independent's readers need to understand that this isn't the end of the line at all. They still have to get their temporary aquifer designation permit reviewed with the New Mexico Environment Department. We're going to challenge that as far as we can take it,” Jantz said.
“Based on the information I got from EPA, they were denied an aquifer designation for the Crownpoint site, so there isn't going to be mining there unless something changes dramatically.”
The 10th Circuit recently ruled that URI's Section 8 property is not in Indian Country, however, Jantz said, the same court ruled in 2001 that Unit One and Section 17 are on Indian Country land. “They're going to have to take a run at the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act to get at those,” he said. “Section 17 is trust land, so it's the equivalent of reservation land; and Unit One is allotted land, and that's squarely under the definition of Indian Country. “
URI stated in a press release that its New Mexico feasibility studies are expected to be completed by the end of 2011. Assuming that the NRC license renewal moves forward in a timely manner, that appropriate financing is available and that there is a sustained recovery in the price of uranium, the company should be in a position to begin construction of the facilities in 2012 and begin mining in 2013.
The NRC license allows for the production of up to an initial 1 million pounds per year from the Churchrock/Crownpoint project until the company is able to successfully demonstrate restoration of groundwater, after which the quantity of production can be increased to 3 million pounds per year.
Thanksgiving Dinner Is Nov. 23rd For New York City Homeless
The Oneida Indian Nation and HELP_USA will serve hundreds of Thanksgiving meals from 4 pm to 8 pm at Genesis RFK Apartments just off Union Square at 13th Street and 4th Avenue.
Ray Halbritter, CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, has helped put together a cast of celebrities, among others, to serve the meals to New York's homeless. The group includes: Comedian, Mario Cantone; Actors Jill Flint, Giles Marini, Amy Carlson, Levin Rambin, and Jesse Metcalfe; Evan Lysacek, Champion Figure Skater; Tomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; and Justin Tuck, New York Giants.
The November 23rd event is a campaign to help raise awareness of homelessness and HELP_USA.
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