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Uranium Enrichment Plans for ID – Opponents Scarce at Public Hearings

December 15, 2008

Boise, ID – Billions of dollars in cash and hundreds of jobs are the promises with Areva's plans to build a uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has started public hearings on the project, and so far, support has been strong, especially in light of the current economic downturn in the state.

However, nuke watchdog Andrea Shipley with the Snake River Alliance says the project goes beyond jobs and cash. She says uranium enrichment creates a dangerous waste that has to be specially treated for safe storage, and that piece has been overlooked in the state's longing for economic development.

"There are no de-conversion plants up and running in the United States right now. So, it's kind of like building an outhouse without digging a hole first."

Areva is confident that conversion facilities will be available by the time the plant opens, which could be five years down the road. And Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has said Areva's choice of Eastern Idaho for the plant will likely mean other big, international companies will follow.

Shipley agrees there is money for Idaho related to energy development, but she says there's more money available in the areas of conservation, wind, solar and geothermal production. She's hoping the state puts a "green economic" plan in place soon to take advantage of the opportunities.

"When the new administration says, 'there's money available to states,' we are ready to act, and we are ready to reap the economic benefits: more jobs and rural development."

Areva is based in France, and uranium processed in Idaho would be used for commercial nuclear power plants.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID