Federal, state agencies discuss INL cleanup efforts
March 22, 2006
By Misti Lockie

TWIN FALLS — The Department of Energy and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality held a joint open house for the public Tuesday evening in Twin Falls to share information about Idaho Cleanup Project efforts at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The meeting, held in the Herrett Center on the CSI campus, showcased different aspects of the Idaho Cleanup Project through large displays and public information handouts. DOE and Idaho DEQ representatives were on hand to field questions from the public.

Contractors affiliated with the DOE also attended to assist with the open house session. Boise-based contractor CH2M-WG combines the capabilities of CH2M HILL and Washington Group International to lead the cleanup effort for DOE. No specific presentations were made.

There was a sparse turnout by the public, but those who attended were intent on the information presented.

“We are here to share the status of the Cleanup Project with the public, and provide an opportunity for folks to get information about what is going on there now and what is slated for the future,” said Alan Jines, an environmental engineer with DOE.

In addition to the public open house, the Citizens Advisory Board for disposal at the site met in Twin Falls the same day to discuss issues. Board member Dick Buxton, of Boise, feels the open house complements their work concerning waste disposal at INL.

“This [meeting] is highly necessary,” Buxton said. “I wish more of the public would come out.”

The INL and the cleanup of nuclear wastes there is in the spotlight recently because of a dispute between the state of Idaho and the DOE concerning types of waste to be removed. This dispute — although it was not the main focus of the meeting — was discussed by some who attended.

“It is important for us to be at this meeting to provide our view of the information to the public, even though we may disagree in court,” said Lezlie Aller, Idaho DEQ Division of INL Oversight and Radiation Control employee.

Twin Falls podiatrist Peter Rickards disagreed.

“What ticks me off are all these shiny pictures and the DOE and the state in a room together — my tax dollars used to advance the nuclear industry and lie to people.”

Rickards, who hopes to win a primary to run for state representative in the next election, thinks the DOE and the state are missing an important opportunity.

“We have 20 years of plutonium waste spread over 88 acres out there, just leaking into the flood zone,” Rickards said. “We have a chance to contain this now, and the state and DOE are slowly letting it leak away.”

On signs displayed at the meeting, the DEQ stated that 30,000 cubic meters of buried transuranic waste would be sent to a New Mexico site in coming years.

The DOE, however, is disputing the clarity of a 1995 agreement with the state concerning that waste. They (DOE) contend that the agreement referred only to transuranic waste stored above ground.

The decision now lies in Boise with U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge.

DOE representatives declined to comment on the court case. However, DEQ policy advisor and attorney Kathleen Trever stated she had testified for the state in the case.

“The type of transuranic waste, whether subsurface or above ground, is what is in dispute here,” said Trever.

According to a brochure available at the open house, the Idaho Cleanup Project covers five different areas that range from reactor sites to the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center. For more information about the Idaho Cleanup Project, visit www.idahocleanupproject.com.

Times-News correspondent Misti Lockie lives in Twin Falls. She can be reached at [email protected].