The Snake River Alliance has long worked to stop shipments of spent nuclear fuel from coming to Idaho. Our work paid off on October 23, when Idaho’s Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden, blocked a shipment of 25 spent fuel rods from Virginia’s North Anna reactor. Idaho’s AG refused to consent to a waiver of the 1995 Settlement Agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE).
Commercial spent fuel is banned in Idaho under the 1995 Agreement. But there is a framework for accepting “research quantities.” Earlier this year, Idaho’s Governor and Attorney General seemed to have given the green light to two such shipments – one from Virginia and another from Illinois. But the Attorney General soon realized that DOE was less likely to meet some of its core cleanup obligations than he had been led to believe and withdrew his consent.
Even before Mr. Wasden reconsidered, former Idaho governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus threatened to sue with the help of our ally, Advocates for the West. We provided technical support for the governors’ legal actions. We publicized DOE’s contractor Battelle’s full plan for the North Anna spent fuel. It hoped to send 25 rods to Idaho now, and another 20 tons within a decade!
Newspapers across the state published our guest opinions. We delivered petitions signed by our members and supporters. We told our Congressional representatives our concerns. And we spoke with service clubs, local governments, and political gatherings from Pocatello to Caldwell.
As the DOE threatened to take its waste somewhere else, we investigated where “somewhere else” would be. So now we are helping groups in Tennessee — which is now targeted to receive the waste from North Anna instead. And we are talking with nuclear proponents and the Nuclear Waste Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center, explaining the concept of state “non-consent” and urging respect for it.
There still is a second shipment waiting in the wings. We have to keep working. The public’s broad and well-informed opposition is encouraging. But we are uneasy about some of the proposals Mr. Wasden seems willing to consider in potential negotiations.
Last month was a win for Idaho.We need to keep working to repeat it!