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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!  

President Trump signed a budget bill for 2019 that includes $1.3 billion for nuclear energy research and development. That money will fund a whole raft of bad ideas, many right here in Idaho.

$100 million will go toward 12 small modular reactors (SMRs). A chunk of that will go to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to pay for the engineering, design, and licensing of 12 nuclear power reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission could approve the project in 2023 and the first reactor is supposed to go online in 2026. SMRs have all the flaws of typical nuclear power reactors and even make some of them worse! We can and should stop this project.

Nuclear power reactors won’t stop GLOBAL WARMING.  Claims that nuclear power can play a key role in addressing climate change and that SMRs could be particularly effective do not hold up. Nuclear power simply costs too much and takes too long to make a difference. A recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the “dramatic cost reduction that SMR proponents describe is unlikely to materialize with this first generation of light water SMRs, even at ‘nth-of-a-kind’ deployment.” That means they can’t help provide a “new carbon-free wedge on the critical time scale for the next several decades.”

Speaking of MONEY,  UAMPS’s current projection for the cost of its nuclear power plant is $4.2 billion. Starting with its first research grants, the project has gotten hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. UAMPS management is expecting us to continue to cover about half the cost. Future taxpayer subsidies will include federal nuclear production tax credits and state and local sales and property tax breaks.

Is there a MARKET? Nearly all the project’s electricity would be sold outside of Idaho. The original assumption was that the buyers would be UAMPS member utilities in surrounding states. So far utilities have only subscribed to 180MWs of the reactors’ 720MWs – and those that signed up still have two more chances to pull out of the project. INL has committed to buying 120MW. That leaves 420MWs without a buyer.

Both of Idaho’s US Senators are sponsors of a bill that would leverage the Pentagon’s buying power to solve this market problem and allow the government to buy more nuclear energy. Here’s how: By law federal agencies can only sign 10-year power purchase agreements. That’s not long enough to cover nuclear power’s sky-high capital costs. If this bill becomes law, federal agencies, including the military (the government’s largest energy consumer), will agree to buy nuclear-generated electricity for 40 years – and pay way above market rates! This bipartisan brainchild is called the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act.  

With SMRs, there is more than just money at stake. Nuclear power is a WATER hog. Of all the ways to make electricity, nuclear uses the most. UAMPS’s 12 nuclear reactor power plant would consume 18,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Snake River Aquifer. Per kilowatt, that’s 25% more water than even full-sized nuclear reactors use. The Snake River Aquifer is already over-allocated and remains the sole source of drinking water for 300,000 people. How will SMRs affect water rights in Idaho?

And of course, nuclear power means more NUCLEAR WASTE!  UAMPS would use 40% more enriched uranium fuel than regular reactors to produce a kilowatt. That means it would produce more intensely radioactive spent fuel. The spent fuel would contain a higher percentage of plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs. There is no final repository for spent fuel so the waste would stay right here in Idaho.

Building nuclear power reactors in Idaho is a bad idea. Please join the Snake River Alliance to oppose commercial nuclear power reactors at INL.

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“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,

but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Who will speak up for Idaho?

One vital group, the Snake River Alliance, is speaking up as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and Idaho’s advocate for renewable and nuclear-free energy. They raise community awareness about the dangers of nuclear waste, weapons and power while working to identify and promote sustainable alternatives. Their work is done through advocacy, collaboration, education and grassroots organizing.

Here are a few key areas that make the Snake River Alliance so important:

They support renewable energy, which is a massive return on your investment! Renewable energy is superior to fossil fuels. The latter draws on finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve.

Western states could save $600 million by using more renewable energy. The Rocky Mountain Institute analyzed a case study of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a co-op that provides power to more than 1 million consumers in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming. RMI found the co-op’s customers could save over $600 million through 2030 if the co-op integrated more renewable energy resources.

We can’t afford to be silent. The risks of transporting deadly nuclear waste, the environmental justice impacts and the long-term health effects are profound. It is a challenge to make nuclear power safe and nuclear fuel remains dangerously radioactive for thousands of years after it is no longer useful in a commercial reactor. The waste disposal problem has become a major challenge for policymakers and Idaho’s own water supply is in danger (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists).

The State of Idaho’s own research shows that the water beneath the INL – and the radioactive isotopes it contains – will flow to the Magic Valley within 150 to 250 years.

The Snake River Alliance is connected to the community. They are your neighbors. They are your children. They are your grandchildren. They fight for the present and the future.

The recent rupture of a barrel of nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) highlights why the Snake River Alliance invested in a far-reaching public education campaign, Don’t Waste Idaho, to stop more shipments of nuclear waste to the Gem State.

Buhl farmers,  Leslee and James Reed acted as part of the Don’t Waste Idaho advisory board, and called on Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Governor Butch Otter to make sure there is a clear plan for any additional nuclear waste that comes into Idaho.

“If we don’t enforce our existing agreement with the federal government, the waste could get stranded in Idaho and threaten our water,” said Leslee Reed.

And this has been a long fight. ​In the 1950s and ’60s, plutonium-contaminated waste from the Rocky Flats H-bomb plant was buried in unlined pits and trenches in the Arco Desert above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The Snake River Alliance was founded 40 years ago as a response to the resulting environmental degradation.

“When I learned that the federal government now wants to truck nuclear waste on I-84, right through Boise, I was horrified,” said Amber Labelle, a veterinary specialist who recently moved to the area and had no knowledge of Idaho’s nuclear waste issues. “As a mother and a scientist, I was shocked to learn about Idaho’s history of being used as a nuclear waste dump.”

So what are you waiting for? YOUR actions matters.

Take action today by donating to the Snake River Alliance for #GivingTuesday!

Electric utilities #1 job is to keep the lights on.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) wants to build 12 nuclear reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory that would produce a total of 720 MW. But the advantages of these small modular reactors (SMR) haven’t been proven in real life, and some of their supporters’ claims don’t even pencil out on paper. So UAMPS is having trouble selling the idea to its own member utilities, and fewer than 200 MW have been spoken for. That number may be shrinking even more as Logan, Utah, reconsiders its initial expression of interest.

That’s good news for US taxpayers’ money and Idaho’s water.

Nov 2 2018

A Cry Out for Idaho

Written by Gail Luedtke, Magic Valley

It was with a heavy heart and a very alert mind that I read Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) Dr. Mark Peters’ comments in the Sunday, October 14 Magic Valley Times Newspaper. He portrayed a beautiful picture of life for Idahoans with exuberance for INL establishing the first fast neutron source reactor in Idaho, which he offhandedly referred to as sitting on 890 square miles of desert. He conveniently forgot to mention that underneath the desert lies the Snake River Plain aquifer, which encompasses 15,600 square miles and supplies our drinking water.

The newest “grand” plan is to make the Idaho National Laboratory the “test site” for the first ever small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in America. Nuclear reactors need water to act as a coolant and the more reactors, the more water needed. The INL currently has most of their wells operating at 1200 feet deep, yielding up to 7000 gallons per minute. Comparatively, Twin Falls County yields up to 3300 gallons per minute with wells up to 1500 feet deep (source USGS). How will these new nuclear reactors affect water usage in the area?

Utahns who are resistant to this proposal have questioned the issue of new commercial radioactive waste – the safe disposal of which has long plagued the commercial industry. These reactors will be installed below ground with an additional area below ground for spent rods to cool off. The waste will inevitably be left at the INL site in Idaho, building up over the years. And all of this will reside over our aquifer. As Murray, Utah City Council Chair Diane Turner stated, “Once you have nuclear, you always have nuclear.”

These concerns from Utah should be coming from Idahoans. Are we just asleep at the wheel? Why are we considering investing in nuclear energy, especially in light of other cost-effective technologies? Our current Senators Risch and Crapo, as well as U.S. House Representative Simpson, all believe this is the best thing since sliced bread. Do you?

SMRs were the brainchild of an Oregon scientist who works for an Oregon based company, NuScale. The nuclear reactors placed at INL will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and operated by Energy Northwest (based in Washington). The electricity will be used in Utah and other areas outside of Idaho. And these decisions are being made in Washington, D.C., which has targeted Idaho as the only viable place for nuclear expansion.

Ummm, why are these decisions being made without local, public opinions and for those outside of Idaho to benefit? What does Idaho get from this? We lose valuable water resources, risk a nuclear accident with untested technology, endanger our aquifer, and become the nuclear waste dump for the country (something Nevadans fought relentlessly to prevent becoming).

When it comes to nuclear there is no room for mistakes and no room for 2nd chances. Idahoans need to fight against SMRs, keeping nuclear power as a thing of the past not the future.