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Morris v. NRC

Citation: 40 ELR 20072
No. No. 07-9505, (10th Cir., 03/08/2010)

In denying a petition for review, the Tenth Circuit held that the NRC did not violate the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) or NEPA when it issued a license to a company to conduct in situ leach mining for uranium on four sites in northwest New Mexico. In issuing the license, NRC interpreted its regulations to require it to consider only the amount of airborne radiation that the operation would emit irrespective of the airborne radioactive emissions already occurring on the site. Affording the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations proper deference, the court upheld NRC’s determination as not contrary to the plain language of the regulations or to any indication of NRC’s intent when it promulgated the regulations. At the same time, based on the final EIS, the court held that NRC considered the cumulative effect of the airborne radiation from past sources as well as that expected from this new activity and, as such, it satisfied NEPA’s hard look requirement. Finally, the court upheld the NRC’s decision with respect to the license’s groundwater restoration provisions under the AEA and NEPA because, among other things, the NRC made a reasoned and informed decision regarding the company’s ability to restore the groundwater. And, based on the final EIS, the NRC took the necessary hard look at groundwater restoration as NEPA requires.