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Challenging The Honolulu Irradiator

Honolulu National Airport.

Honolulu National Airport is situated only a few feet above sea level.

Photo courtesy of Ron Reiring

What's at Stake

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a proposal for a nuclear irradiator in Honolulu National Airport. Earthjustice successfully challenged the approval, and in 2012 the facility was moved to a safe location.


In 2005, Pa`ina Hawai`i proposed building a facility for irradiating fruits and vegetables to kill various pests at the Honolulu airport. Earthjustice and its clients opposed the plant because it was in a tsunami evacuation zone, vulnerable to earthquakes and hurricane storm surge, at risk of airplane crash, and would provide a ready source of radioactive material for a "dirty bomb" terrorist attack on the international airport and symbolic targets like Pearl Harbor. Finally, it was only a few feet above sea level, which put the plant at risk of wave run-up similar to that experienced in the devastating tsunami in southeast Asia in December 2004.

Opposition took the form of a petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which would have to approve the project. After several years of Earthjustice litigation, the developer agreed to move the plant to a site in central O`ahu, far from Honolulu and earthquake faults. Construction began in mid-2012, and the plant is now in operation.

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Concerned Citizens of Honolulu

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