Written by Gail Luedtke, Magic Valley

It was with a heavy heart and a very alert mind that I read Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) Dr. Mark Peters’ comments in the Sunday, October 14 Magic Valley Times Newspaper. He portrayed a beautiful picture of life for Idahoans with exuberance for INL establishing the first fast neutron source reactor in Idaho, which he offhandedly referred to as sitting on 890 square miles of desert. He conveniently forgot to mention that underneath the desert lies the Snake River Plain aquifer, which encompasses 15,600 square miles and supplies our drinking water.

The newest “grand” plan is to make the Idaho National Laboratory the “test site” for the first ever small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in America. Nuclear reactors need water to act as a coolant and the more reactors, the more water needed. The INL currently has most of their wells operating at 1200 feet deep, yielding up to 7000 gallons per minute. Comparatively, Twin Falls County yields up to 3300 gallons per minute with wells up to 1500 feet deep (source USGS). How will these new nuclear reactors affect water usage in the area?

Utahns who are resistant to this proposal have questioned the issue of new commercial radioactive waste – the safe disposal of which has long plagued the commercial industry. These reactors will be installed below ground with an additional area below ground for spent rods to cool off. The waste will inevitably be left at the INL site in Idaho, building up over the years. And all of this will reside over our aquifer. As Murray, Utah City Council Chair Diane Turner stated, “Once you have nuclear, you always have nuclear.”

These concerns from Utah should be coming from Idahoans. Are we just asleep at the wheel? Why are we considering investing in nuclear energy, especially in light of other cost-effective technologies? Our current Senators Risch and Crapo, as well as U.S. House Representative Simpson, all believe this is the best thing since sliced bread. Do you?

SMRs were the brainchild of an Oregon scientist who works for an Oregon based company, NuScale. The nuclear reactors placed at INL will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and operated by Energy Northwest (based in Washington). The electricity will be used in Utah and other areas outside of Idaho. And these decisions are being made in Washington, D.C., which has targeted Idaho as the only viable place for nuclear expansion.

Ummm, why are these decisions being made without local, public opinions and for those outside of Idaho to benefit? What does Idaho get from this? We lose valuable water resources, risk a nuclear accident with untested technology, endanger our aquifer, and become the nuclear waste dump for the country (something Nevadans fought relentlessly to prevent becoming).

When it comes to nuclear there is no room for mistakes and no room for 2nd chances. Idahoans need to fight against SMRs, keeping nuclear power as a thing of the past not the future.