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Mission, Vision, & History

Mission

The Snake River Alliance serves as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and Idaho’s advocate for renewable and nuclear-free energy. We raise community awareness about the dangers of nuclear waste, weapons and power while working to identify and promote sustainable alternatives. We do our work through advocacy, collaboration, education and grassroots organizing.

Joanna Macy Workshop 2012

Joanna Macy Workshop | 2012

Vision

We envision responsible solutions to nuclear waste and a nuclear-free future. We seek to strengthen Idaho’s economy and communities through the implementation of renewable energy sources in Idaho and the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation.

 

Idaho’s Nuclear Watchdog Since 1979

The Snake River Alliance was founded in 1979, soon after the Three-Mile Island accident, by a handful of people who had just learned the Idaho National Laboratory routinely injected hazardous and radioactive waste into the Snake River Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for a quarter of a million people. The first focus of our efforts was to build public pressure to stop this irresponsible practice, and the “injection well” at INL was in fact in capped in 1989.

From our founding, the Alliance has been actively and absolutely opposed to nuclear weapons, and we threatened litigation early on to stop construction of the first New Production Reactor, a weapons material production reactor, at INL. We educated Idahoans throughout the 1980s on weapons issues through our Hazardous Materials Transport Project, steady publication of our research findings, and educational events such as our Peaceful Priorities conference, which featured activists such as Helen Caldicott, and Swimming Upstream to Protect Communities Downstream celebrating our 25th anniversary.

In 1984 we began a 2-year project, Children in the Nuclear Shadow, to bring attention to children’s fears about nuclear war. Between 1987 and 1990, the Alliance focused on blocking construction of the Special Isotope Separator, which would have produced weapons-grade plutonium. We worked with a broad range of public interest groups and state regulators to achieve passage in 1992 of the Federal Facilities Compliance Act, which forced the Department of Energy to obey our country’s core hazardous waste law. In 1992, the majority of Idahoans, with our leadership, blocked construction of a second New Production Reactor and the revamping of the nuclear weapons complex. Our Stop the Shipments campaign in the early 1990s trained public attention on nuclear navy waste coming to Idaho, which ultimately led to reduced shipments.

Ever since INL was named a Superfund site in 1989, the Alliance has been the most active advocate of cleanup there. We analyze cleanup plans, helped prepare the first non-governmental study of the nuclear threats to the Snake River Aquifer as well as other reports, and publicize environmental problems through aggressive outreach and education, having presented our Idaho’s Water at Risk presentation to a broad range of audiences. We have long been recognized nationally as one of he sharpest critics of reprocessing, the must-take step between a nuclear reactor and a nuclear bomb, and were plaintiffs in an effort to force thorough cleanup of the high-level waste reprocessing produces. In 1999 we helped lead the Back from the Brink national campaign to take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. In 2001 we helped stop the construction of a plutonium incinerator at INL.

All our work is informed by cooperation with other groups working on similar issues, and in 1987 we helped found the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, which brings together people from across the country who live in the shadow of the nuclear weapons complex. We have traveled to Washington, DC, each year for the past two decades to discuss our concerns. We help sustain and invigorate Idaho’s progressive community through an array of events such as concerts with the likes of Jackson Browne, Carole King, and Steve Miller, rallies and demonstrations, community dinners, public workshops, and celebrations such as Give Peace and Dance and the Peace Fair.

Since 1979 the Alliance has worked to protect Idaho’s people, environment, and economy from nuclear weapons and waste at the Idaho National Laboratory. Today we are one of Idaho’s strongest advocates for clean and renewable energy, leading the charge for the development of a sustainable energy plan for Idaho and providing leadership and coordination amongst our allies.

Alliance Accomplishments Timeline

1970s

  • 1979: Founded after two groups of citizens met serendipitously in Boise’s Julia Davis Park and expressed concerns about news stories regarding the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown and the INL injecting nuclear waste into the Snake River Aquifer.

1980s

  • 1984-1986: Organized the “Children in the Nuclear Shadow” project, to bring attention to children’s fears about nuclear war.
  • 1987: Helped stop the Special Isotope Separator nuclear weapons facility at the INL.
  • 1987: Helped found a national coalition of nuclear watchdog groups called the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
  • 1987: Rallied opposition to the INL’s injection of nuclear waste into the Snake River Aquifer, and the Idaho National Laboratory injection well was capped.
  • 1989: Began work to “clean up” nuclear waste threatening Idaho’s drinking water at INL after the INL was named a Superfund Site.

1990s

  • 1990’s (early):  Organized the “Stop the Shipments” campaign, which focused public attention on nuclear Navy waste coming to Idaho and led to reduced shipments.
  • 1992: Led the public in blocking a second New Production Reactor and revamping of the nuclear weapons complex.
  • 1995: Governor Batt signed a settlement agreement to prevent commercial radioactive waste from coming to Idaho.
  • 1999: Helped lead the “Back from the Brink” campaign to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert.
  • 1992: Achieved passage of the Federal Facilities Compliance Act, which forced the Department of Energy to obey the nation’s core hazardous waste law.

2000s

  • 2001: Worked with other groups to stop the construction of a plutonium waste incinerator at the INL
  • 2004: Expanded the organization’s mission to include clean energy advocacy for the state of Idaho.
  • 2005: Helped stop the Sempra coal plant proposal in Jerome.
  • 2005: Helped stop the Divine Strake bomb testing.
  • 2005: Joined with the Natural Resource Defense Council, Yakama Nation, and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in litigation to force the DOE to clean up high-level radioactive waste stored in buried tanks.
  • 2006: Rallied to stop Alternate Energy Holding, Inc. (AEHI) from building a nuclear reactor in Owyhee County.
  • 2006: Assisted in drafting the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan through working groups under the legislative Interim Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee
  • 2007: Helped defeat Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy nuclear reactor proposal in Payette.
  • 2007: Participated in decisions on how to clean up buried waste at the INL and hired a technical assistant with a technical assistance grant from the EPA to professionally consult on the best practices to date for nuclear waste cleanup.
  • 2008:Helped stop another AEHI nuclear reactor proposal in Elmore County by challenging the rezone of agriculture land on the Snake River from “agricultural” to “heavy industrial” for the purpose of building a nuclear power facility.
    • Thanks to the Alliance and our partners, AEHI’s executives have been sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (December 2010) and indicted on 14 criminal counts by the U.S. Department of Justice (November 2014). AEHI is now out of business.
  • 2008: Helped create the “Idaho Energy Collaborative” made up of environmental organizations and green businesses seeking to build common ground to move clean energy policies in Idaho.
  • 2009-2011: Rallied to stop a $4.1 billion uranium enrichment facility proposal by Areva, a French government-owned multinational nuclear corporation.
    • On December 13, 2011, Areva announced it was “suspending” plans to build the factory in Idaho due to financial constraints.

2010s

  • 2011: Launched our “Choose Efficiency, Lose the Coal” campaign with a bike rally in Boise which was attended by nearly 100 people and released our reports, “Idaho’s Energy Future” and “Idaho’s Dangerous Dalliance with King Coal.”
  • 2011:  Engaged with the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and advocated for storing nuclear waste as safely as possible as close to its point of generation as possible.
  • 2011: Conducted public education campaign across southern Idaho focused on environmental conditions and cleanup programs at the Idaho National Laboratory.
  • 2011: Participated in Nuclear Regulatory Commission roundtable discussion on reprocessing
  • 2012: Brought world-renowned nuclear activist and scholar Joanna Macy to Idaho for a lecture attended by hundreds and a weekend workshop attended by 75 people.
  • 2012: Held a successful “Careholders” rally outside of Idaho Power during its 2012 Shareholders meeting. This effort garnered widespread media attention and galvanized public opposition to Idaho’s reliance on dirty coal-fired power imported from out-of-state. Our rally was complimented by a half-page advertisement in the Idaho Statesman.
  • 2012:  Issued Idaho’s first report on how the state can end its use of coal-fired power generation:Kicking Idaho’s Coal Habit – Charting a Cleaner Energy Future.
  • 2012: Led discussions across southern Idaho on long term implications of nuclear waste disposal based on the film “Into Eternity.”
  • 2012: Discussed energy policy implications of nuclear loan guarantee program at the Western Energy Policy Research Conference.
  • 2012-2013: Successfully organized opposition to an effort by the Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission to recommend bringing more commercial radioactive waste into Idaho. The Commission’s final report did not include this recommendation. We continue to work to protect Idaho from more nuclear waste and promote an environmentally sound and equitable national nuclear waste policy.
  • 2013: Organized concerned shareholders to raise the issue of coal and carbon emissions at the 2013 Idaho Power Shareholders meeting and ran another advertisement in the Idaho Statesman calling coal a “losing bet.”
  • 2013: We were a party to Idaho Power’s request to the PUC to add $130 million in environmental cleanup equipment to two of its Wyoming coal plants and helped convince the PUC to deny Idaho Power’s request for “pre-approval” of that $130 million unless it can show the investment was worthwhile. It was the first time the PUC affirmed that burning coal harms “human, health, the climate, wildlife, land, and water.”
  • 2013: We were key players in a PUC case that resulted in the restoration of two important energy-saving measures, including air-conditioning “cycling” to reduce energy use during times of highest demand. Idaho Power had discontinued the programs, and we worked with the company and other stakeholders to figure out how to return them in 2014.
  • 2013: Participated in a PUC case in which the Commission rejected a request by Idaho Power that would have all but ended the popular “net metering” program that allows customers to install solar panels on their rooftops, use that energy, and sell unused energy back to Idaho Power.
  • 2013:  Led public education effort focused on Idaho National Laboratory spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste, including address to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.
  • 2014: Jumped with both feet in the U.S. EPA’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, including those owned or co-owned by Idaho’s electric utilities. The rule should be finalized by late summer 2015, and the Alliance is fighting to ensure our utilities take responsibility for the climate-changing pollution coming from their coal plants.
  • 2014: Issued a new comprehensive report, “Making a Difference: How Idahoans Can Work Toward a Clean Energy Future.”
  • 2014-2015: Participating in Idaho Power’s every-other-year power plan to show how it will meet expected new demand for electricity. Our focus is on planning a gradual elimination of coal power and replacing it with solar and other renewables, as well as new energy efficiency.
  • 2014-2015:  Served on advisory council for Bipartisan Policy Center review of nuclear waste disposal.
  • 2015: Helped educate people in Idaho, South Carolina, and New Mexico on the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and its implications across the Department of Energy complex.