Federal nuclear panel to study impacts of irradiation facility
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will study potential environmental effects of a fruit irradiation facility proposed for Honolulu Airport, an attorney for community groups seeking the review said yesterday.
NRC staff will prepare an environmental assessment to evaluate threats to Pa'ina Hawaii's proposed facility from airplane crashes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and other accidents, said David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney representing Concerned Citizens of Honolulu.
The order by the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board was made yesterday in a conference call among attorneys, Pa'ina Hawaii owner Michael Kohn said yesterday.
Kohn's company had asked to be excluded from conducting an environmental assessment of its project. The company proposes using radioactive cobalt-60 in underwater pools to rid fruits and vegetables of bacteria and insects before out-of-state shipment. Kohn maintains that the process poses no risk to people or the environment.
The citizens group petitioned the NRC to do an environmental assessment after the Hawaii-based company objected to doing one, Henkin said.
"We applaud the board's decision, which recognizes the compelling public interest in thorough environmental review of this controversial proposal," Concerned Citizens member David Paulson said in a statement. "We are particularly pleased the people who would be threatened if this irradiator were built are going to have the chance to have their voices heard and to ensure the NRC takes a careful look at the many threats to public health and safety and the environment."
According to Henkin, NRC staff will hold at least one public meeting in Honolulu where people can comment on the draft environmental review, which is expected to be completed in December. The agency will also accept written comments.
When the company announced last summer that it would build the facility, Pa'ina President Kohn said he hoped to have the facility in operation by February. He said the facility could process 80 million pounds of produce a year and would be safe to both workers and the nearby area.