Cuomo, Madigan criticize government's stance on uranium

John O'Brien Aug. 12, 2008, 5:29pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - A pair of state attorneys general say the federal government must ban civilian use of highly enriched uranium before it leads to a terrorist attack.

New York's Andrew Cuomo and Illinois' Lisa Madigan wrote the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday, complaining that the agency does not have strong enough restrictions. They were joined in the letter by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"It's absurd that the NRC has continued to drag its feet when it comes to banning this highly radioactive material," Cuomo said. "Plain and simple, banning highly enriched uranium for civilian use will remove another potential lethal weapon from the terrorists' hands."

Seven civilian facilities still use HEU, with four of them in the process of reducing their usage. The other three (Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Nuclear Research Reactor, Heavy Water Test Reactor at the National Institute of Standards and Missouri University Research Reactor) have not.

Cuomo, King and Madigan feel terrorists could potentially gain access to HEU.

Cuomo and King are especially concerned with a terrorist attack on New York City. They would like the NRC to establish a date after which HEU can no longer be licensed for civil use, except on a limited case-by-case basis.

The trio feels a ban on HEU would set a precedent for other countries to follow.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told The Associated Press that "no credible sabotage or theft scenario would produce significant radiological consequences to the public health and safety" and that the agency has already implemented increased security measures since 9-11.

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