The Snake River Alliance, which has served as the state’s nuclear watchdog since 1979, is weighing in on a discussion about the future of nuclear activities at the Idaho National Laboratory and across the state.
The Alliance recently submitted a letter to the Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission regarding the Progress Report it released to the public earlier this month; the Commission is currently taking public comment on the document.
In the letter, the Alliance cautions the Commission — which has been charged by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to suggest polices and actions the state can take to support the viability and mission of the INL and the nuclear industry — against recommending any changes to the 1995 settlement agreement, which was struck to protect the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer from possible contamination, and bans new waste shipments into Idaho.
“While the Commission report raises the specter of pitting the 1995 Settlement Agreement banning new waste shipments into Idaho against the future of INL and suggests that a ‘pilot’ waste dump might be explored for Idaho, Gov. Otter has reiterated his opposition to reopening the historic 1995 settlement Agreement,” according to a news release from the Alliance regarding its letter. “But the report contains language and recommendations that could lead to opening that door.”
The Snake River Alliance, which included in its submission a petition signed by 1,500 people who oppose bringing commercial nuclear waste to Idaho, thinks that would be a mistake.
“Idaho does not need to restart a statewide ‘conversation’ about whether the state should reverse the will of Idahoans by rethinking whether we should accept new shipments of spent nuclear fuel or turning the Idaho National Laboratory into a de facto waste dump,” according to the news release.
The federal government recently ended its plans to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada to store spent nuclear fuel, and the Blue Ribbon Commission, which was created to review current policies and come up with a new strategy, has since suggested the need for consolidated storage and disposal facilities for spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. Some Idahoans — including mayors in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Blackfoot, Rexburg, Ammon and Chubbuck, who recently submitted a letter of their own to the LINE Commission — think the state should at least study the environmental and economic impacts of siting an interim storage facility for commercial used nuclear fuel in east Idaho to meet that need. And the LINE Commission itself has suggested that changes may need to be made to the 1995 Settlement Agreement if Idaho wants to safeguard the INL’s future as the nation’s lead nuclear energy laboratory.
But the Snake River Alliance considers that questions asked and answered.
“The Progress Report and discussions at LINE Commission meetings have attempted to bolster a narrative that ‘everything has changed’ since the 1995 Settlement Agreement. Claimed ‘game changers’ include the designation of INL as the lead nuclear energy and spent fuel national lab. Another seems to be when Battelle was named the contractor for the INL laboratory and CWI was named cleanup contractor in 2005. Yet another was the Obama administration’s decision to end development of a high level waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada,” according to the letter. “All these milestones are most certainly important, but they do not mean that everything has changed, nor that the environmental challenges at INL have disappeared.”
The Snake River Alliance also addressed several other issues in its letter, including the need for more transparency in the LINE Commission’s decision making process.
“The LINE Commission itself has characterized its work as the beginning of a ‘conversation.’ As such, the contributions of all Idahoans — Commission members and not — must be open, and public input must be accessible to the public. Any ‘conversation’ depends on all of us knowing what our neighbors are thinking,” according to the letter, which goes on to say, “It would doom the LINE Commission’s work to failure if we did not know how the final recommendations to the governor were crafted.”
The Journal should stop using SRA's
branding tagline about being Idaho's 'nuclear watchdog' as if it had any sort of legitimacy or real status. They are nothing more than an anti-nuclear organization.
Thank you for this comprehensive article. The deadline for the public to tell the LINE Commission that Idaho does not want commercial nuclear waste is Friday, January 4, 2013. The website for comments is www.line.idaho.gov. People can read the comments of the Snake River Alliance at www.snakeriveralliance.org.
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