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REJECTED OR ACCEPTED?  Powertech spins problems with Dewey-Burdock

Posted October 10, 2009



In the world according to Powertech, a permit application returned for incompleteness is not "rejected".  But when such an application is redone, resubmitted, and found to be complete and ready for technical review, it is "accepted". 


In June, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Powertech an ultimatum: withdraw the company's application for an ISL mining license for the Dewey-Burdock project or the NRC would formally reject the application.  Turns out, the 8,700-page application contained five material deficiencies that rendered it unsuitable for technical review by NRC staff.  Powertech withdrew the application.


Two months later, the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources found Powertech's application for an Underground Injection Control Permit for the project to be incomplete and thus not ready for technical review.  According to the 41-page letter to Powertech, three major issues were not adequately addressed in the application, and dozens of errors and deficiencies were noted.


In both of these cases, the permit applications were sent back to Powertech because they were determined to be incomplete.  Neither agency could conduct a technical review of the applications.  (An earlier application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an Underground Injection Control permit for the Dewey-Burdock project has been found to be complete.)


When Paul Robinson of the Southwest Research and Information Center was quoted as saying the applications had been "rejected as unacceptable",  Powertech CEO Dick Clement was quick to respond.  "The state did not reject our application...it's not unusual to get these kinds of questions" asserted Clement, referring to the incompleteness determination by the SDDENR.


In an earlier news release, Clement had already described the NRC's requirement to revise the federal permit application as a "voluntary withdrawal".  Making every effort to obscure the fact that the company botched both permit applications, Powertech officials have downplayed the concerns of the permitting agencies and have been especially vehement in their denial that the applications have been rejected.


It is perhaps a fair criticism that the applications have not been "rejected".  They have both been found "incomplete".  In the words of the SDDENR:

"In general terms, the application lacks sufficient detail to address fundamental questions related to whether the project can be conducted in a controlled manner to protect ground water resources."

So if they weren't "rejected", then a subsequent finding that a revised application is now "complete" shouldn't mean that it is "accepted", right?




On October 7, Powertech issued a news release with the following headline:


If you read the news release, you discover that the NRC has simply "found the Company’s application for its Dewey-Burdock uranium in situ project acceptable for detailed technical and environmental review."  In other words, it is "complete".  The news release goes on to make the misleading claim that the EPA has "accepted" the UIC permit application, which is currently undergoing technical review.


If Powertech officials were concerned about transparency and disclosure, they would say that a permit application has been "rejected for technical review" or "accepted for technical review", or that is has been "found to be incomplete" or "found to be complete".