Today’s News: The nuclear Navy will build a new, $1.65 billion spent fuel storage facility in Idaho by 2024.
Since 1957, the waste from ALL of our nation’s nuclear-powered vessels has come to Idaho.
These shipments are allowed under the 1995 Settlement Agreement. Until the early 1990s, the nuclear Navy’s spent fuel was reprocessed, which turned it into an intensely radioactive liquid. But there are still about 32 tons of Navy spent fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Naval Reactors Facility (NRF). The new facility will replace the NRF’s 1958-vintage storage pool, which has grown increasingly unsafe because of deferred maintenance. The new facility will handle and store nuclear Navy spent fuel until at least 2060.
About 20 tons of nuclear waste have come in since the Agreement was signed. The State of Idaho cannot stop these shipments as it can those from the Department of Energy. So even now, when the DOE’s shipments are suspended because of problems in the cleanup program, the nuclear Navy’s shipments continue.
The only Addendum to the 1995 Agreement was negotiated in 2008 and requires that the nuclear Navy remove most of its spent fuel from Idaho by 2035. After that, it can bring in more spent fuel as long as its stockpile here is never more than nine metric tons.
Bottom Line: The nuclear Navy’s activities are generally shrouded in secrecy, and we must be vigilant to protect the public. A weakness of the 1995 Settlement Agreement was that it did not block Navy waste. However, over the years, we have come to appreciate the Agreement’s other strengths – bolstering the INL cleanup program, and banning new commercial spent fuel. It may not be permanent, but INL might be a storage site for nuclear Navy waste for more than a century.