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Nuclear watchdog group requests ASLB open final GE-Hitachi review to public

The Forrestal Building, United States Department of Energy headquarters

GE-Hitachi’s subsidiary, Global Laser Enrichment, is facing the last regulatory hurdle before a 40-year license is granted to enrich uranium in Castle Hayne – just outside of Wilmington.   Judges with the Atomic Safety Licensing Board have closed the final hearing to the public in its entirety.  But as WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, one nuclear watchdog group is urging officials to reconsider that closed-door decision.

If the license is granted and GE executives determine that it makes financial sense, GE-Hitachi’s subsidiary, Global Laser Enrichment, will build the first laser-based uranium enrichment plant in the world. 

Tom Clements is the Nonproliferation Policy Director at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a proliferation watchdog group.   Clements says he’s troubled by what he sees as potential global instability from the spread of nuclear weapons – should this project go forward.  And that’s why he’s asking Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Judge Paul Ryerson to re-open at least portions of the meeting to the public. 

“They generally are open so I was a little surprised the ASLB took the step to close this proceeding…  But I think for their own convenience, they’ve closed the entire proceeding.  And it’s far too important a national non-proliferation issue to close the whole thing.”

Clements also says he hopes the Licensing Board will consider the absence of a proliferation impact assessment by the NRC. 

GE-Hitachi officials say an independent panel has already conducted this type of analysis, concluding the technology is no more vulnerable to proliferation than current enrichment methods.  A GE spokesman also says the company invested billions of dollars in SILEX, and safeguards to protect the information go above and beyond the letter of the law. 

The final evidentiary hearing begins July 11th in Rockville, Maryland.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.