Updated: The Freedom to Demonstrate Demonstrated in Crow Butte Hearing

Victor Dricks
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region IV

Demonstrators voice their opinion ahead of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing.
Demonstrators voice their opinion ahead of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing.

Both opponents and supporters of the Crow Butte Resources, Inc.’s uranium recovery facility near Crawford, Neb., faced off this week during a hearing before the Atomic Safety & Licensing Board. The hearing, presided over by three ASLB judges, involves a challenge to the renewed license issued to the facility in late-2014.

The ASLB is an independent body within the NRC that conducts adjudicatory hearings and renders decisions on legal challenges to licensing actions.

The ASLB judges are hearing evidence this week addressing nine contentions filed by opponents of the facility from several local residents and the Western Nebraska Resources Council, known as consolidated interveners, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The hearing is being held in the Crawford Community Center.

Four of the contentions are related to the safety review and five are related to the environmental review. The contentions challenge the adequacy of the evaluation and protection of historical resources at the site, and the NRC’s analysis of the facility’s impacts on surface water, groundwater and the ecosystem. The hearing will run until all evidence has been heard.

In filings with the ASLB, the Oglala Sioux Tribe said it will argue that NRC failed to adequately follow all legally required processes before issuing a 10-year license extension for the facility, causing the tribe “irreparable harm,” as a result.

Iris Paris of Crawford, Nebraska, greets ASLB judges for their hearing today.
Iris Paris of Crawford, Nebraska, greets ASLB judges for their hearing today.

Expert witnesses scheduled to speak on behalf of the interveners include Dennis Yellow Thunder and Michael Catches Enemy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as well as an archaeologist, a biochemist and three hydrologists.

The ASLB hearings come just weeks after a documentary film titled “Crying Earth Rise Up,” co-produced by Lakota grandmother Debra White Plume, Prairie Dust Films and Vision Maker Media, premiered here in Crawford. The 57-minute film presents a case against uranium mining.

Owned by the Canadian Cameco Corp., Crow Butte Resources has been conducting in situ recovery of uranium for nuclear power plants at its site four miles east of Crawford for 20 years. Cameco is the largest operator of uranium mines in the United States. The company has submitted applications for three uranium recovery site expansion projects, which are in various phases of NRC review.

The ASLB has 90 days after the conclusion of next week’s hearing to affirm, modify or reverse its decision to renew the operating license for Crow Butte.

Update: This post has been edited to include all co-producers of the documentary.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

9 thoughts on “Updated: The Freedom to Demonstrate Demonstrated in Crow Butte Hearing”

  1. Thank you for your swift and thorough reply. I enjoyed reading the NRC blog entry on Debra White Plume’s efforts.

  2. Reporters from three weekly newspapers and three video documentary producers attended the meeting. The tone of the questioning by the ASLB judges was rigorous, detailed and technical concerning the hydrology and geology of the site. The company has been operating under an NRC-issued license for 25 years. That license was renewed for another 10 years in November 2014. NRC licensing rules permitted opponents to subsequently raise additional contentions, which were the subject of this week’s hearing.

    Victor Dricks

  3. Has there been much media presence or interest? What has the tone of the questioning been like? How on Earth can it be appropriate for a company to operate on a Temporary License for eight years? Thank you for this thoughtful piece.

  4. thanks, victor,
    are these hearings being recorded?
    if so, where will links to the recordings be published?
    –charles ostdiek
    cochair, green party of the u.s.
    cochair, nebraska green party

  5. I do encourage the reclamation and recovery of uranium from our spent fuel, reading more about this project — whatever happens, ZERO impact on the local communities and environment should be the operational standards for any nuclear project. And, #solidarity with the Sioux positions.

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