Challenging The Honolulu Irradiator

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.


David Henkin

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

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.

Honolulu National Airport.
Honolulu National Airport is situated only a few feet above sea level. (Photo courtesy of Ron Reiring)

Case Updates

July 10, 2012 Press Release: Victory

Ground Broken For Nuclear Plant Pest Irradiator At Safe Location

Facility moved following earlier legal challenge

July 9, 2010 Press Release: Victory

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Rejects Environmental Review Of Proposed Fruit and Vegetable Irradiator

NRC staff ordered to analyze non-nuclear technologies, alternate sites

August 31, 2009 Press Release: Victory

More Studies Required for Proposed Airport Irradiator

NRC staff ordered to analyze transportation accidents, alternatives