March 23, 2000

Anti-incinerator groups hope to bar British Nuclear Fuels from U.S.

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - Environmental and government watchdog groups are petitioning Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson to suspend and debar British Nuclear Fuels Limited from all United States contracts.

The groups planned to petition Richardson Thursday.

British Nuclear Fuels is nearly finished with a permitting process to build a high-level nuclear waste incinerator at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. British Nuclear Fuels Spokesperson Ann Riedesel said that permit is still in review with the State of Idaho and the Environmental Protection Agency, and construction will begin in mid-April at the earliest.

But local environmental groups - particularly the Snake River Alliance and the Jackson, Wyo.-based group Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free - opposed the incinerator during the permitting process, in part because of what they claimed was British Nuclear Fuel's track record overseas.

Speaking at a public meeting in Jackson, members of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free called British Nuclear Fuel's record heinous and devastating. The accusations stem from incidents in the United Kingdom, where workers at one of British Nuclear Fuel's contracted projects falsified inspection records.

Riedesel has said - and maintained Wednesday - that the incident was isolated, and involved workers who fudged data because they found their work tedious.

But Steve Hopkins of the Snake River Alliance said the problems go much deeper, encompassing long-term problems involving management. He said the British equivalent of the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the claims and decided it was not "just a few bad apples."

As for the incinerator planned at Idaho Nation Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, he said, "We don't have any confidence that they can do it safely."