The Idaho Public Utilities Commission on August 20 issued an order that solar power developers warned for months will end most utility-sized solar developments in Idaho. This case has been watched nationwide as utilities like Idaho Power and then Rocky Mountain Power and Avista try to avoid having to purchase electricity under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), passed by Congress in 1978 in response to the nation’s energy crisis and designed to boost the development of renewable energy generation.
While the PUC order does not eliminate the ability of commercial solar companies to build generation projects and try to sell their power to utilities in Idaho or anywhere else, the order presents very high hurdles for solar companies wanting to do business in Idaho. Here’s how the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker described the PUC’s decision:
“The Idaho Public Utilities Commission gave all three of the state’s major electric utilities everything they had asked for in limiting the length of contracts for renewable energy from independent developers last week.
“The commission reduced the length of the contracts to two years from 20 years, nearly ensuring no new contracts under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 will be signed any time soon.” Read More
There have been a number of editorials and guest opinions in Idaho newspapers since the start of the year regarding the Department of Energy’s desire to ship two batches of commercial spent nuclear fuel to Idaho. As has often been the case during nuclear controversies in Idaho, many of the supporters of the shipments are from eastern Idaho, what the Idaho Falls paper calls “INL Country.” Elsewhere, opposition seems fairly high.
How much money would come to Idaho if the Governor and Attorney General allow the two shipments?
It’s hard to tell. Supporters of the shipments seem to have settled on $20 million per year, or as the head of the Idaho Department of Commerce wrote, “about $100 million to Idaho during the next five years.” In a December 16, 2014, letter to the Governor, the Manager of the DOE-Idaho office estimated that the shipment to support joint work with South Korea on pyroprocessing would mean “$10-20 M per year through approximately 2021.” But current annual funding for the project is about $7 million, and it seems to be holding steady. In his letter to the Governor, the DOE-Idaho Manager also informed him that the shipment of high burnup spent fuel sister rods will mean about $1 million to $2 million for each of the next 3 to 4 years. The sister rod shipment is far more controversial because it might attract 20 tons additional spent fuel in the next several years. Based on these documents, it looks as if a fair amount of the cited funding would not be new money, and that the total is at or below the low end of the DOE’s stated estimate. Read More
The Idaho Peace Coalition takes actions that offer everyone the opportunity to practice nonviolence together and create a culture of peace. As part of their collaborative work, they have invited the Snake River Alliance to co-host a Walk to Protect Idaho From Nuclear Waste on Tuesday, September 22, from 12 to 1pm. Meet at the Post Office on 8th and Bannock in downtown Boise slightly before 12 if you would like to participate!
Alliance members might also be interested in other events that week, including:
- Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. – “Reach for the Sun” electric vehicle event, co-hosted by the Idaho Sierra Club at the MK Nature Center
- Friday, Sept. 25, from 12 to1 pm –Walk for the Climate, co-hosted by 350.org starting at the 8th Street Post Office.
On Thursday, October 22, 2015, Snake River Alliance members and supporters can visit the Idaho National Laboratory, which covers 890 square miles of eastern Idaho’s high desert plain. Alliance Site tours are excellent opportunities to get a real sense of what has happened and is happening at the Idaho National Lab. Everyone can join us! This year we’re again welcoming visual artists on the tour who can go home and communicate to others what they see and learn. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll see first-hand.
- Two hulking nuclear-powered airplane engines. For obvious reasons, they never operated in the sky, but unshielded, ground-level experiments between 1955 and 1961 left a fair amount of contamination here in Idaho.
- Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project. The work at AMWTP is to sort, compact, and package low-level and plutonium-contaminated waste to ship off-site. Two accidents last years have closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant indefinitely, so plutonium-contaminated waste is treated and then put back in storage.
- Radioactive Waste Management Complex, where plutonium from weapons production was buried above the Snake River Aquifer and is now being exhumed.
- Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, where there is some of the most radioactive waste on earth. Spent nuclear fuel is stored underwater and in dry casks there. High-level waste was produced when spent fuel was dissolved in acid so highly enriched uranium could be removed. It’s stored there in a dried form in giant bins. We’ll see the facility that, it is hoped, will finish drying the rest of the liquid high-level waste that’s now in buried tanks.
The State of Idaho should stand tall while demanding that the Department of Energy honor its commitments to the people of Idaho.
While the Idaho National Laboratory may be an economic force in our state, the history of the Site is plagued by the federal government’s irresponsible and shortsighted practices involving disposal of nuclear waste. These actions contaminated the air, the soil, and the Snake River Aquifer with radioactive materials that will remain hazardous until the end of fathomable time. Real people suffered. Decades of dumping and controversial plans to continue shipping nuclear waste from around the world into Idaho caused outrage among many of its citizens. Litigation led to the now-famous 1995 Settlement Agreement, which is hardly outdated – the deadlines have just recently started to come due.