Idaho has already said NO . . . But those who want to import commercial nuclear waste need to hear it again

In January, we learned that Idaho’s Governor and Attorney General had agreed to allow two shipments of commercial spent nuclear fuel into the state. The Department of Energy has now released an environmental review, called a Supplement Analysis (SA), and it is wildly inadequate.  Comments on the SA are due July 13. You can help stop these shipments by sending in comments.

Tell the DOE “No”

  • Bait and switch is not okay.
  • Idaho has seen way too much waste never leave.
  • Fiddling with out-of-date analyses is not acceptable

Bait and switch is not okay.

One of the proposed shipments contains 25 high burn-up spent fuel rods (about 100 pounds) from the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. They are called “sister rods.” They would come to Idaho for examinations to establish the baseline for future studies of other rods from the same reactor. Lots of other rods. Fifteen to 20 tons.  These rods will be stored at North Anna for about 10 years until, according to the Final Test Plan, their cask will be sent to an “off-site Fuel Examination Facility” so the rods can be removed and examined. The full plan is given minimum acknowledgment in a footnote in the SA.
The footnote says that a suitable facility for the larger shipment “does not currently exist at the INL Site.” But it could, if Battelle, the contractor that runs INL, gets its way.  Battelle has been building and modifying INL’s spent fuel facilities for a number of years and has asked Congress for more money next year to continue. Furthermore, John Grossenbacher, who leads Battelle and directs INL, has a lot of power in the situation and is actively angling for the 20 tons. Listen as he describes the master plan to Governor Otter’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission (0:01 through 1:46): LISTEN HERE

Idaho has seen way too much waste never leave.

Idahoans recognized decades ago that “interim storage” is likely to turn into “permanent.” And we don’t want that here.

At the same LINE Commission meeting, Mr. Grossenbacher and his associate repeatedly skirted the question of when the 20 tons they are clamoring to bring to Idaho would leave. We know the 20 tons won’t go back to the reactor. We can assume it will leave – in a hand basket – only when there is an interim storage site or a permanent repository.

So how long will it stay in Idaho? At 1:48 on the tape, Mr. Grossenbacher is talking about building a whole new spent fuel “transshipment” facility at INL. “Transshipment” means waste comes in, Battelle goofs with it, waste goes out…someday. How big would the waste pile be at any given time? “…significantly bigger than it is today,” he says. Today’s pile is 308 tons.

In the course of half an hour, the plan has gone from 100 pounds to 20 metric tons to more than 308 tons. Yow! And then…

Mr. Grossenbacher finishes by saying,

“If I were a state interested in becoming an interim storage site, I would want this mission.”

Fine. Idaho is not interested in becoming an interim storage site and we do not want this mission.

The other proposed shipment also contains 25 spent fuel rods from a light water reactor. They are destined to be pyroprocessed, which the DOE persists in trying to sell to other countries, including, in this case, South Korea. Pyroprocessing, like all reprocessing technologies, can extract nuclear bomb ingredients from spent fuel. In fact, pyroprocessing is a particularly high proliferation concern because it can be performed in a small, concealable space. The US government has no business promoting its use here or anywhere else.

The SA says the work on all 50 rods would produce about 8 cubic meters of transuranic (TRU) waste. It “assumes the TRU wastes from the proposed action would be disposed of at WIPP.” But the TRU waste would clearly be commercial because the spent fuel rods are. Commercial waste is prohibited at WIPP by multiple laws, so an adequate SA should “assume” that such commercial waste (TRU or otherwise) cannot go to WIPP and consider other alternatives.

Fiddling with out-of-date analyses is not acceptable.

The DOE is trying to avoid producing a full environmental impact statement by issuing this Supplement Analysis. But four of the five studies it claims to “supplement” were produced in the last millennium and do not adequately cover the issues facing Idaho today.

How to Tell Them

When? Comments on the plan to bring in commercial spent nuclear fuel are due to DOE by July 13, 2015. 
Where? Comments can be submitted to Jack Depperschmidt, US Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office, 1955 Fremont Avenue, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83415-1222 or by email at [email protected].

For more information, please contact [email protected].

You can listen to audio of the full LINE Commission meeting. Most of the key discussion begins a little after the 1:40 mark.  Governor Otter’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission on September 26, 2013.