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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 12, 2006

CONTACT: Alan Kuperman, Kuperman@nci.org, (512) 471-8245






NCI Now Asks Commission

To Lift Remaining Redaction Policy as Illegal



WASHINGTON – Partially reversing a secrecy policy adopted in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has revealed in a letter to the Nuclear Control Institute the amounts of two recently approved licenses to export bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU).


One license, approved by the Commission in April, authorizes the export of 16 kg HEU to Canada for production of medical isotopes.  The other, approved last month, is for 86 kg of HEU to fuel a Belgian research reactor.   Both amounts raise concerns. Indeed, the quantity of HEU in the latter license is by itself sufficient for a nuclear weapon of the simplest, gun-type design.


During consideration of these two license applications, as with all others since the NRC’s post-9/11 policy, the Commission had refused to reveal the amount of HEU requested for export.


Accordingly, NCI complained in a 13 February 2006 letter to the Commission that this redaction policy vitiated “the opportunity for meaningful public comment on these applications as provided for under the Atomic Energy Act.”


The Commission’s response of 26 April 2006 not only revealed the amount of the two licenses but at least partially accepted NCI’s argument, conceding “that the general screening criteria are not necessarily appropriate for every situation.” 


Despite this concession, the Institute’s senior policy analyst Alan J. Kuperman and founding President Paul L. Leventhal today expressed dissatisfaction in a written response to the NRC, arguing that its disclosures came too late for public comment to affect Commission consideration.  To prevent repetition of this problem, the NCI letter requested two further NRC reforms:


“1. The Commission should routinely disclose to the public in a timely manner the amount of HEU in any export license application it receives.  This disclosure should be published in the Federal Register, ideally at the same time that the application is published.  . . . Failure to routinely disclose such amounts would in at least some cases deprive the public of information to which it is entitled by statute.


“2. The statutory deadline for public comment on a license application to export HEU should be counted starting from the date of publication in the Federal Register of the amount requested, not of the redacted application.  This is essential to ensuring that the public has sufficient time to comment meaningfully, and that the Commission has sufficient time to consider such comments, prior to approval of the license.”


            NCI also reminded the Commission that prior to its current redaction policy the institute had alerted the NRC in cases where the requested amount of HEU exceeded the applicant’s need or entitlement under U.S. law:


“In several of these cases, the Commission either reduced the amount approved for export or did not approve the license at all.  The preexisting disclosure policy thereby reduced the likelihood of foreign accumulation of surplus HEU, helping to promote U.S. national security.  We urge a return to this enlightened policy of openness and public disclosure, in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act.”


A copy of the NRC disclosure and the two NCI letters can be found at www.nci.org.