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On August 11, 2017, the Los Angeles Times revealed that, without significant reform, the Department of Energy (DOE) will miss its 2035 deadline for getting all its spent fuel out of Idaho. The LA Times article is based on a report by Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a longtime Alliance ally. DOE documents he got through the Freedom of Information Act show DOE is knowingly making the situation even worse while leaving the public and the State of Idaho in the dark.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has 26 metric tons of sodium-bonded spent nuclear fuel left over from operating the Experimental Breeder Reactor II. It contains metallic sodium, which reacts violently with both air and water. DOE argues that the fuel can’t be put in a geologic repository unless the sodium is removed.

INL chose to remove the sodium through pyroprocessing, a technology that poses a proliferation threat because it can separate nuclear bomb ingredients out of spent fuel. Despite opposition from the Alliance, UCS, and other environmental and peace groups, INL started pyroprocessing in 2000.

As a waste management effort, it has been a disaster right from the start.

Early estimates pegged 2013 as the completion date for treating the sodium-bonded spent fuel. But INL admitted in an internal document that it wouldn’t even hit 2035, the deadline in the Nuclear Waste Settlement Agreement. INL’s admission included a comment that “according to [name redacted] EBR-II elements are not subject to the SA [Settlement Agreement].”

That is simply not true.

The FOIAed documents reveal even more damning information. Pyroprocessing spent fuel creates high-level waste, and 2035 is also the deadline for all high-level waste to be ready to leave Idaho. That’s one of the reasons everyone has been so worried about the ongoing problems treating the liquid waste in INL’s buried tanks.

Some of pyroprocessing’s high-level waste is in a ceramic form. But the equipment to make the ceramic has been moved to make room for pyroprocessing research for South Korea. The proposed research would use spent fuel from a nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois.

If the State of Idaho waives its ban on commercial spent fuel and allows in the Byron fuel, it will also impede efforts to get high-level waste ready to leave Idaho.

The State must protect the best interests of Idahoans and demand that DOE act in good faith and meet its commitments to us. We must have a workable path forward for INL’s sodium-bonded fuel and successful treatment of high-level waste.

Aug 8 2017

Don’t Waste Idaho

The new baseball caps at the Snake River Alliance say “Nuclear Waste is Not Your Friend.” But here it comes again — knocking at your door like a bad date from high school.

The Department of Energy is asking Idaho to accept high-level waste from the Byron nuclear plant in Illinois. This is to support research for South Korea. After the research, the waste will stay in Idaho.

We’ve heard this all before and we would be fools to fall for it. Idaho should not allow more nuclear waste. The government has not met its deadlines for removing what is already here.

Governor Otter and many legislators want the Byron waste and have plans to roll back Idaho’s 1995 Nuclear Waste Agreement to accept even more.

Many Snake River Alliance members know what happened when Idaho was a dumping ground for nuclear waste. For decades waste was directly injected into our aquifer and barrels of plutonium-laden waste were dumped into unlined pits.

We are fighting back with a media and public education campaign. Please help the Alliance launch by making a donation today to our new Don’t Waste Idaho campaign. We can’t do it without you!

It is important that we act today. The Byron shipment will open the door to more nuclear waste from many different places. There is already discussion of bringing thousands of barrels of nuclear waste to Idaho from Hanford, Washington.

Instead of accepting more waste, Idaho needs to enforce the 1995 Agreement that set up deadlines for cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory. Those deadlines aren’t being met, and 900,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid still sits in aging underground tanks at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Together we can stop the Byron shipment and keep our state safe. Don’t let Idaho open the door to more nuclear waste.

Thank you for helping the Don’t Waste Idaho campaign! When you send a one-time gift of $150 (or ongoing pledge of $10 a month) we will send you a “Nuclear Waste is Not Your Friend” hat in the color of your choosing. Just say “No hat, please” if that’s not your style.

August 2017 marks the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is a good time to take stock of where we are in the nuclear age.

The surprisingly good news is that on July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was overwhelmingly adopted at the UN. None of the nuclear-armed states – U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea – are expected to sign the treaty. Nevertheless, it establishes a new global norm that will be a touchstone for those of us working for a nuclear-free world.

The worst news shows how far we have to go. Three days before the Nuclear Ban Treaty vote, North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock is set at 2 ½ minutes before midnight. To mark this year’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries, the Bulletin prepared a collection of reading to help with the work ahead.

Tour the Idaho National Lab – Your radioactive backyard

 

On Thursday, August 31, 2017, Snake River Alliance members and supporters can visit the Idaho National Laboratory. Our tours are great opportunities to get a real sense of what has happened and is happening at the Idaho National Lab. Here’s what we’ll see first-hand.

 

  • Radioactive Waste Management Complex, where plutonium from weapons production was buried above the Snake River Aquifer, and the Superfund project to dig up targeted waste is nearly complete.
  • Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, where you’ll see 1) remote-handled plutonium waste being stabilized in a very large hot cell, 2) the government’s largest spent nuclear fuel storage pool, and 3) the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit, where a project to treat liquid high-level waste is over budget and behind schedule.
  • Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, where plutonium-contaminated waste is sorted and compacted to ship off-site sometime in the future.

 

The tour will run from 9 am to about 4 pm. It will be a long, challenging day, filled with juxtapositions. You will be close to but protected from very dangerous material. The Arco Desert, at the base of the Lemhi and Lost River ranges, is one of the most beautiful parts of our state. Humans have lived there for more than 13,000 years. Beneath INL, sixty years of nuclear contamination threatens the sole source of drinking water for 300,000 Idahoans downstream. Come see it for yourself.

 

If you have questions or already know you would like to go on the tour, please contact our nuclear program director, Beatrice Brailsford, at bbrailsford@snakeriveralliance.org.

 

 

Idahoans who want to learn more about rooftop solar will have two extra weeks to sign up with Solarize the Valley.org this summer. The free program has extended the deadline for online sign-ups to August 15th so more people can explore the option of going solar.

Solarize the Valley has been organized by Idaho’s clean energy advocacy group, the Snake River Alliance. Executive Director Wendy Wilson said, “The 2017 campaign is going very well. Folks really like to reduce their electric bill and increase their home value at the same time. Some are even plugging electric vehicles into solar panels. Over 300 people have signed up to get a free bid and we still have room for more.”

Last year, Solarize the Valley help Idahoans invest over $1 million in clean energy, added 380kW of new capacity and created new local jobs.

The program offers low, pre-negotiated prices on solar panels for those living in Ada and Canyon Counties. Those living in other southern Idaho counties are invited to sign up but installation prices may vary. Homeowners or business owners can get a free site assessment by signing up at www.solarizethevalley.org, by August 15, or by calling 208 344 9161.