On February 6 the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission released its final recommendations to the public after a presentation to a joint meeting of the House Energy Environment and Technology Committee and the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. You can find the commission’s report and executive summary at LINE.idaho.gov. You can also read all public comment received be the commission on its website.
There is good news. In the December draft report, the Technology subcommittee, chaired by the CEO of Battelle, recommended the State of Idaho endorse a “pilot US regional interim storage facility” for nuclear waste coming to the Idaho National Laboratory. This recommendation was not in the final report. Furthermore, the full commission backed off its original effort to suggest changes to the 1995 Settlement Agreement that could have included lifting Idaho’s ban on commercial radioactive waste. These victories no doubt rested in part on your comments and pressure from others in the Snake River Alliance. Thank you for being part of the effort to protect Idaho from more radioactive waste. The LINE Commission also explicitly supported cleanup at the INL, though its members seem overly confident that, once cleanup is complete, its federal funding will transfer to other projects at INL.
But as you might expect, the final report also leaves plenty of room for concern. It suggests Idaho “exercise leadership” as the U.S. formulates federal energy and nuclear waste management policy” and, more specifically, focuses on an “opportunity” to “capitalize on nuclear waste policy formulation and implementation.”
The report also suggests there is a need to reexamine Idaho’s ban on the importation of commercial spent fuel. Much of the impetus for the desire to reevaluate spent fuel importation is based on the notion, fostered by a high-ranking Department of Energy official last summer, that interim storage of nuclear waste represents a “gigantic industrial opportunity.” But that notion is wildly inaccurate. The utilities that wanted to open a 40,000 metric ton storage site in Utah projected it would create a mere 45 jobs. The only way spent nuclear fuel might create jobs is if it were reprocessed, which is a dangerous, dirty, unproductive endeavor. Cost estimates for addressing the contamination from INL’s old reprocessor ran to $2.5 billion in 1997, though the cost could be half again as much. That is an opportunity of sorts, but probably not the kind most Idahoans want.
The LINE Commission may well continue, perhaps as a “Nuclear Advisory Council” to the governor. While such a Council is mentioned in the final report, how it would be funded and who it would include remains unclear. The report does indicate there will be an effort to continue to scrutinize the 1995 Settlement Agreement and that changes to the agreement could include allowing commercial nuclear waste into Idaho. We will continue to monitor the effects of the report and work to protect Idaho from nuclear waste.
Please feel free to contact us with questions or suggestions. If you haven’t already signed our on-line petition insisting that the 1995 ban on commercial radioactive waste stand, you can do so here.