Several legal cases were initiated in the summer of 2003 to prevent CFC Logistics from operating a cobalt-60 food irradiator near the Quakertown entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476).
Concerned Citizens of Milford Township (CCMT) led the battle to protect Milford Township and surrounding areas from this risky use of nuclear technology. Our efforts entailed hiring and working closely with a team of attorneys based locally and in Washington, DC, as well as a nuclear physicist. On behalf of over thirty petitioners in Milford Township, they filed legal briefs and delivered oral arguments both at the federal level and locally (jointly with township officials) to explain the potential hazards of the new facility.
CCMT has succeeded in helping to protect the community -- in combination with other local, national and international organizations that focused on various facets of this complicated struggle. We are happy to report that, as of late April 2005, the irradiator has ceased all commercial operations!
During the summer of 2004, CCMT led the settlement team that achieved an agreement with CFC Logistics to address key technical issues related to plant safety. Our goal has always been to ensure the ongoing safety and security of this place we all call "home," and to preserve property values for those who wish to sell their homes or pass them on to future generations. We fought the legal battle on two fronts:
- through an official request for an evidentiary hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLBP), the judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, later approved on October 29, 2003; its purpose would be to evaluate the nuclear materials license issued to CFC Logistics by the NRC's Region I office in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania;
- via battles in Bucks County Court where, although unable to prevent the irradiator from beginning commercial operations, CCMT helped defend the groundbreaking land-use ordinance passed in September 2003 by the Milford Township Board of Supervisors; it restricts the operation of future facilities in the township that would utilize radioactive materials near our neighborhoods, churches and schools.
CCMT retained renowned attorney Diane Curran to focus our request for a hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel. She was selected because of her expertise in federal nuclear safety law and her landmark victories on behalf of the public interest. For county and possible state-level court proceedings, as well as the ASLBP proceedings, we hired well-known Pennsylvania environmental attorney Robert J. Sugarman, based in Philadelphia and Doylestown. Mr. Sugarman offered considerable experience in legal matters involving local land use.
We also retained Dr. Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates, a particle physicist whose expert opinions proved essential in ASLBP matters and as part of CCMT's settlement team. His dedication in support of the public interest is tireless and unsurpassed. (To read Dr. Resnikoff's technical analysis of the irradiator, prepared in support of the our legal case, click here.)
Additional litigation to prevent a plant expansion would have been very expensive but necessary to protect our safety and way of life. We likely would have needed to retain an expert on radiological terrorism with elevated stature on par with members of the famed 9-11 Commission, as well as other nuclear security consultants, to help in our legal battles with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. To our great disappointment, despite many months of legal wrangling, we were unable to resolve the serious security issues regarding access to -- and evaluation of -- confidential safeguards information currently in place to protect the public.
Fortunately, the legal battles have fully concluded now that CFC Logistics is closing its irradiator. Contributions to CCMT have been a wise investment. We always thought of them as an "insurance policy" to protect the safety of local families and the value of their largest investment and legacy, their homes. Although we did not succeed in overturning CFC Logistics' license to operate its initial irradiator, the benefits to mounting a legal challenge are obvious, including the opportunity to make the plant safer.
Of course, litigation was very expensive for everyone involved: petitioners, their supporters, the judicial system and the company we opposed. We wonder whether the prospect of additional legal battles may have factored into CFC's financial decisions regarding future plans for its irradiation operations....
Ultimately, because of market forces and bottom-line issues, rather than through a judicial decision, CFC Logistics did not succeed in forcing this plant into our community over the long haul. Nonetheless, while working within the legal system, CCMT pressed local, state and federal government officials -- as well as judicial bodies -- to examine the irradiator in Milford Township more carefully, exposing weak NRC licensing requirements in the process.
To that end, we met directly with now-retired U.S. Congressman James Greenwood, who gathered and analyzed concerns from CCMT and Bucks County constituents and forwarded them for review to Nils Diaz, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. After our meeting, he sent a pointed letter to CFC Logistics that raised some of the commonsense issues we had discussed.
We also received an important letter of support for our ASLBP hearing request, addressed to Chairman Diaz, from Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. We are continuing the call for regulatory reform to help other communities across the United States even though the irradiator in our own backyard will soon be removed and no longer pose a threat to local residents.
It is important to note that, without the community's critical financial assistance, our legal efforts would have stopped. Several households contributed over $1,000 to the irradiator cause; some far in excess of that amount. We realize that Milford Township is a community of moderate means and we deeply appreciate all donations that were contributed. We also extend our deepest gratitude to the many people who volunteered their time and energy -- whose value is incalculable!
The citizens of our community and the rest of the country can take comfort in knowing that the contentious fight against the cobalt-60 food irradiator was ultimately successful. Our work as irradiator watchdogs is now complete because the cobalt-60 pencils were removed on May 19, 2005 and the plant was certified to be free from any residual radioactivity by NRC on June 21st.
We are pleased to deliver this wonderful news that the facility was safely decommissioned and its operating license has been terminated.