MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

ENDAUM Gains Ground

In October 1998, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told intervenors Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) and Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) that it need not address at the time whether an administrative law judge was wrong to "bifurcate," or split up, the evidentiary hearing on the Hydro Resources, Inc. (HRI) uranium solution mine licensing case, simply because HRI wasn't sure if it would ever mine three out of the four sites authorized in the license.

Nearly two and a half years later, in a significant win for the intervenors, the NRC finally had to agree that bifurcating the proceeding was unfair.

On January 31, 2001, the Commission ruled that it will allow the entirety of Dallas-based HRI's license to be challenged by ENDAUM and SRIC, rather than just one-fourth of it. Ruling on an appeal filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which represents SRIC and ENDAUM in this six-year-long administrative litigation, the Commission reversed the NRC Presiding Officer's decision to "hold in abeyance" three-quarters of the proceeding. The impact of the Commission's decision is significant. HRI must now either (1) return for a full evidentiary hearing in six months to defend the entirety of its license; or (2) accept an amendment to the license that strips three of four potential mining sites from the license. The company must inform the Commission of its choice by the end of April. After the decision, Kathleen Tsosie of ENDAUM stated, "We are very pleased the Commission agreed with us that HRI can't just have a license and not defend big parts of it. We want HRI to understand that we are not going away and that we plan to put even more effort into the next round of litigation."

— Geoffrey H. Fettus, New Mexico Environmental Law Center

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"Federal policy…has been to assure that "waste management problems shall not be deferred to other generations," and many environmental groups have shared the same view. Geological burial - at first glance anyway - looks like an ideal way to accomplish that since, after all, it "removes" the wastes from the environment and solves the problem once and for all. But in many ways entombment does just the opposite. It deliberately poisons a portion of the natural world for an endless stretch of time and in doing so it not only leaves future generations with thousands of tons of the most dangerous rubbish imaginable on their hands but makes it as difficult as the state of our technology permits for them to deal with it. We cannot promise our children - never mind those who will follow hundreds or thousands of years hence - that they will be safe from the wastes. And so long as that is so, we are not taking the problem out of their hands so much as we are taking the solution out of their hands."
Kai Erikson in
"Out of Sight, Out of Our Minds"
The New York Times Magazine
March 6, 1994.

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