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Feb 11 2019

We are hiring!

The Snake River Alliance, Idaho’s grassroots nuclear watchdog and clean energy advocate, is searching for an Executive Director.

See a complete job description, here. This position closes March 15, 2019.

Written by Sarah Wanless

When I first started looking for an internship, it was quite intimidating. There were so many great options and this was an important choice, so I started researching the best candidates recommended by Boise State University. After a while, I stumbled upon the Snake River Alliance, an organization I had never heard of before. Once I read through their mission statement and, I’ll admit, did a bit of Facebook stalking, I was intrigued. I wanted to learn more so I reached out to the Snake River Alliance and got in touch with their Assistant Director [now Associate Nuclear Program Director] Amy Hilton.

The main reason I chose to do an internship with the Snake River Alliance was because I loved how the community was so close and welcoming. I loved the idea of working with a small-scale non-profit that actually got involved with local issues and I admired their promotion of renewable energy. I was pleased to find out that my initial impression of the Alliance was correct. When I first met with Amy Hilton and Leigh Ford [Chief Operations Manager], I had a bad case of the nerves, but they were quick to calm them and make me feel welcome.

This was my first internship, so everything was very new and different. It was pretty nerve-racking at times, but everyone was always supportive of my work. It was great to learn how everything worked when I went to my first event for the Don’t Waste Idaho campaign in Twin Falls and I loved to be able to participate in such incredible events such as the Eilen Jewell Backyard Benefit Concert and the 2018 Harvest Fall Dinner. I spent a bulk of my time researching the feasibility of heat pump water heaters for Boise and I hope my work is a small step forward in helping Boise become more energy efficient!

It was especially fun to be able to incorporate the Alliance’s efforts into my classes at Boise State University. I remember, discussing the Don’t Waste Idaho campaign and thinking how wonderful it was that there was an opportunity to inform college students about the hazards of nuclear waste, as they really haven’t had any exposure to this topic. Despite our education system ignoring the problems of nuclear waste in energy policy discussions, it was clear to see that many students were alarmed my the problem and interested in the work that the Snake River Alliance does.

This has been a truly amazing educational experience for me to learn about how things really work when it comes to community outreach and communications. There is still a lot more for me to learn in the future, but my internship with the Snake River Alliance has truly helped me in my professional development. I will be looking forward to seeing the amazing work they do in 2019 to protect the people of Idaho from the dangers of the nuclear industry.

Reprocessing is the must-take step between a nuclear reactor and a nuclear bomb, and is the source of some of the most dangerous waste on earth. During reprocessing, spent nuclear fuel from reactors is dissolved in acid so bomb ingredients – plutonium and highly enriched uranium – can be removed and used for weapons. Congress defined what’s left – “the highly radioactive material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel” – as high-level waste in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (1982). Congress also mandated that high-level waste be disposed of in deep geologic repositories, isolated from the human biosphere.

More than 100 million gallons of liquid high-level waste are stored in buried tanks in Washington, South Carolina, and Idaho.
More than 100 million gallons of liquid high-level waste are stored in buried tanks in Washington, South Carolina, and Idaho.

High-level waste was produced by the US nuclear weapons complex at the Hanford Reservation (WA), the Savannah River Site (SC), and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). There is also high-level waste at West Valley (NY) that was produced in a commercial reprocessing facility. Much of INL’s high-level waste has been calcined, or dried, and is stored in large, above ground stainless steel bins. Some, however, is still a liquid and is stored in buried tanks.

Safely managing high-level waste – let alone disposing of it — has proven to be one of the Department of Energy’s most difficult jobs, one it has not always performed very well. For years, DOE has tried to change the definition of high-level waste so it can take shortcuts in how it is handled and disposed. The Trump administration DOE has now launched another all-out effort to fundamentally alter more than 50 years of national consensus on how high-level waste — the most toxic, radioactive, and dangerous waste in the world — is managed and ultimately disposed in geologic repositories.

DOE wants to “reinterpret” high-level waste so it can be abandoned in place or be put in shallow land burial. To move the goalposts in this way would endanger current and future generations who live near high-level waste sites in Washington, Idaho, and South Carolina or who live near sites that might be chosen, illegally, for high-level waste disposal, including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (NM).

DOE asked for public comments on the latest plan to change the rules. Eight public interest organizations, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council and including the Snake River Alliance, offered a joint response: DOE should withdraw its high-level waste reinterpretation proposal because it is contrary to law. DOE has a Congressional mandate to protect the public and the environment from the long-term dangers posed by high-level waste. That mandate must be carried out and cannot be shirked or changed because it is too expensive or too difficult or because of technical or economic constraints. Doing so would violate Congress’s charge in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. DOE should focus its efforts on working with affected States, Tribes, and interested members of the public to ensure protective cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex.

As President of the Board of the Snake River Alliance, I want to thank all our members for their ongoing support.  As a member-based organization, it is all of you – all of us! – who keep Idaho’s citizens aware of the potential effects nuclear waste could have on our lives. We have a lot to be proud of AND a lot of work ahead of us in this 40th year of our existence.  With your help, we look forward to a busy and successful year! Please enjoy reading why my husband, long time Snake River Alliance member Cees Hoefnagels, and I joined the Alliance.

 ~Julie Hoefnagels

Why I Joined the Snake River Alliance

Cees Hoefnagels

I grew up in the Netherlands during World War II, and as a result, I have always been vehemently opposed to war and any type of bomb.  The Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and the constant threat of bombings forced my family (2 adults and 5 little children) to live in the basement to keep the Nazis from seeing our lights to prevent bombings during nighttime raids.

I moved to the United States (Silicon Valley) for work in 1967 and to Idaho in the late 1970’s.  Not long after my arrival in Idaho, I became aware of the presence of the nuclear facilities in Southeastern Idaho and the danger it posed to the Idaho water supply. I couldn’t believe it.  I immediately looked for like-minded people with whom to protest this situation, and found them at the then young Snake River Alliance.

My first years in Idaho were spent working in Nampa.  A small group of 9 of us (including a priest, 2 nuns, and a doctor) held watches to monitor the progress of what was then called the White Train (because of white boxcars carrying nuclear waste), to alert the public and to protest against these trains coming through our city and state.  We had some success in raising awareness (lots of newspaper coverage), but did not succeed in stopping the trains altogether.

I eventually moved to Boise and continued my work as a member of the Alliance.  I have stuck with it through thick and thin because the job of raising awareness of the dangers of the nuclear industry has not gone away.

Julie Hoefnagels

My awareness of nuclear power was awakened in 1986, with the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.  I lived in San Francisco at the time, and within a week after the accident joined a group protesting nuclear power called Beyond War.  It was the first time I had really focused on the dangers of nuclear power production and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  My most vivid memory of this time is of an art installation at Civic Center Plaza made up of white ceramic cones about a foot tall, one for every nuclear weapon in the world’s nuclear arsenals.  The cones covered nearly the whole plaza.  It was sobering.

After leaving San Francisco, my attention was drawn more towards environmental issues and I was part of a group that sought to raise awareness about CFC’s and other environmental dangers.  It wasn’t until I returned to Idaho in the early 2000s that I became aware of the Snake River Alliance.

I had gone out to dinner with a friend at the Shangri-La Tea House, thinking it would be a quiet place to relax, only to find that some group called the Snake River Alliance was holding an informational evening there.  I was totally annoyed, tried to tune it out, but became riveted by what I was overhearing.  The then ED, Liz Woodruff, was speaking eloquently about the dangers of nuclear waste and what the Alliance was trying to do.  It planted the seed.

A few years later, I met Cees and began attending Alliance events with him.  I knew at once I had found “my people.”  I loved the work-together spirit and the way this group was taking on such an enormous problem.  I have been inspired by working with fellow Alliance members and enjoyed becoming more involved over the years.  I have been the Board President since June of 2017 and I hope that I can really help to further the organization’s goals and work in the new year!

Former Governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus fought long and hard with the federal government to craft the 1995 Nuclear Settlement Agreement. Today, the Department of Energy still hasn’t met many important deadlines, and even worse, there’s talk in some places of loosening the Agreement so the DOE can send more out-of-state waste to Idaho.

The Snake River Alliance launched the Don’t Waste Idaho campaign and stopped this from happening! Over the last six months, the Alliance rallied public opposition to DOE’s proposal to ship nuclear waste from Hanford, Washington for treatment at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project in Idaho. The plutonium-laden waste could endanger our roadways and end up stranded in Idaho for decades.

The Alliance thanks our Don’t Waste Idaho advisory committee members for their help, including Gary Richardson, James and Leslee Reed, former State Legislator Donna Pence, Twin Falls Councilman Chris Talkington, Governor Andrus’ Chief of Staff Marc Johnson, and Andrus’ daughter Tracy Andrus. We also want to thank the marketing firm Oliver Russell of Boise for their help building the campaign plan, launching the Don’t Waste Idaho website, and placing Don’t Waste Idaho billboards in both Boise and Twin Falls.

A really fun part of the campaign was our “Nuclear Waste Roadshow,” fake radioactive waste barrels (Thank you, Tim Norton!) that traveled on a trailer donated by Dorian Duffin. The Roadshow got a lot of attention as it went down I-84 to farmer’s markets, rallies, educational forums, and other events across Southern Idaho. It was even in Boise’s 4th of July Parade alongside a horde of “Nuclearized Zombies”!

The Don’t Waste Idaho campaign held many successful outreach and educational events that raised the level of public concern about nuclear waste to new heights. There are now more people across Idaho who are educated about nuclear waste – and speaking out about it! We generated dozens of Letters to the Editors, Guest Opinions and newspaper articles. We received TV coverage of one of our rallies and two press conferences, with a clip of one going national. Enough political pressure was generated by our campaign that many candidates and leaders came out against DOE’s proposal.or pledged to uphold the 1995 Agreement. In the end, the campaign generated hundreds of calls and letters to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in support of Idaho’s 1995 Nuclear Settlement Agreement. Volunteers even delivered 3,000 petition signatures and about 40 recorded comments to him personally!

Six months ago, we thought the Department of Energy would not listen to our concerns. It seemed like it was a “done deal” that 33,000 barrels of plutonium-laced waste would come into Idaho (even as early as January 2019!) But the DOE has cancelled the project! We are thankful that the Hanford waste is not coming to Idaho and thankful to the many volunteers across the state who worked so hard to make Don’t Waste Idaho a success!