The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ruled that more work needs to be done on an environmental assessment for a produce irradiator that’s proposed for a location near Honolulu International Airport.
The commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board issued a ruling last week saying the NRC staff needs to consider alternate technology and sites in producing the assessment. The board’s decision said it expects the staff to give meaningful consideration to transportation accidents in preparing a final environmental assessment.
The ruling came after almost three years of discussion at the NRC, which has been considering Pa’ina Hawaii LLC’s request to build an irradiator that would use up to a million curries of cobalt-60 to treat local fruits such as papayas, vegetables and other items so they can be shipped to the Mainland insect-free.
The project has been questioned by Concerned Citizens of Honolulu, a group that’s enlisted the help of environmental law firm Earthjustice to seek more public input on the project. The group in October 2005 challenged the NRC’s decision to approve the irradiator without any environmental review, arguing the proposed site is next to aircraft runways and in a tsunami evacuation zone.
The NRC, while seeking a final environmental assessment for the project, turned down Concerned Citizens’ request for preparation of an environmental impact statement, a more in-depth review.
Earthjustice issued a press release saying that because of its efforts, a lot more information will be disseminated to the public.
"Trucks carrying radioactive material to Pa’ina’s proposed irradiator could crash in front of a school, a local business, a house," said Concerned Citizens spokesman David Paulson in a press statement.
"We’re pleased the board recognized the people of Honolulu deserve to know what kinds of threats our families would face if such an accident happened, before a final decision about the irradiator is made."
Pa’ina Hawaii was not immediately available to comment on the ruling.
Previously it noted such a facility will help the state’s agriculture industry grow and that the Big Island already has an irradiator to treat produce. It also noted that the University of Hawai’i has used a cobalt-60 irradiator for 40 years without leaks and that O’ahu is home to nuclear-powered submarines and bunkers designed to store nuclear weapons.
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