A facility that will use radiation to kill plant pests has broken ground at a location selected to minimize danger to local citizens. The facility is being built at an agricultural research center in Kunia, a location on Oʻahu that is considered safe from earthquakes and is far from Honolulu, its airport and the ocean. Earthjustice, representing Concerned Citizens of Honolulu, challenged the original proposed site at Honolulu International Airport because the threat of airplane strikes, tsunamis, earthquakes (the airport site was on fill), and the proximity to highly populated areas and tempting terrorist targets (such as Pearl Harbor). When combined with the dangerous radioactive materials used, this posed unnecessary risks to public health and safety.
Paʻina Hawaii, LLC is building its irradiator far from town because Earthjustice attorney David Henkin succeeded in convincing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the original siting violated the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires examination of reasonable alternatives.
“When Paʻina first proposed its irradiator, it claimed that the airport site was the only place for this facility,” said Henkin of Earthjustice. “We’re fortunate to have strong laws like the National Environmental Policy Act that require consideration of alternate locations where risks to the public and environment are at a minimum. This is a great example of why insisting on environmental review is important and illustrates how federal environmental laws work to protect the public while allowing projects to go forward.”
In July of 2010, the NRC issued a ruling requiring the irradiator company to disclose to Oʻahu residents more information about the controversial nuclear irradiation facility proposed for Honolulu International Airport.
The Commission agreed with Concerned Citizens of Honolulu, represented by Earthjustice, that the NRC staff violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it failed to consider alternate locations that aren’t subject to the same threats of tsunami, storm surge, earthquakes and aircraft crashes as the location Paʻina Hawaii had proposed.
The case began in October 2005 when Earthjustice, on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Honolulu, challenged the NRC’s plan to approve the irradiator without any environmental review. Earthjustice argued that the originally proposed irradiator site, which is located next to active runways and in a tsunami evacuation zone, was vulnerable to numerous threats that could jeopardize human and environmental health.
In a settlement of that initial challenge, the NRC staff agreed to prepare an environmental assessment and put it out for public review. When the document was released, Earthjustice successfully challenged it as legally inadequate. The revised assessment revealed that the site in Kunia that Paʻina ultimately selected could get the job done with substantially less risk to the public.