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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: nuclear waste

Cleanup of buried waste in unlined pits at INL to resume in coming months

Gov. Butch Otter announced today that cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste buried in unlined pits and trenches at the Idaho National Laboratory will restart in the coming months, after federal officials informed the state last fall that budget restrictions would force a halt to the work. The waste was generated during Cold War weapons production in the 1950s and 1960s; it was a key issue in the agreement former Gov. Phil Batt negotiated with the U.S. Department of Energy requiring removal of all the waste by 2035.

Since last fall's announcement, Otter and his LINE Commission, which stands for Leadership in Nuclear Energy, have been working to get the feds to restart the cleanup. In late May, the Department of Energy directed its cleanup contractor to use cost savings to restart it; as many as 50 employees will be hired to start work by late summer or early fall. Otter, who traveled to eastern Idaho for today's announcement, said, “While we still have some outstanding cleanup issues, this process demonstrates that our relationship with the Department of Energy is improving and we can be more confident that – with continued vigilance – promises will be kept and our concerns will be addressed.” Click below for his full news release.

Former Sen. Larry Craig: Nuke agreement, like Constitution, may need changes over time

Former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is among those addressing lawmakers on the House Environment and Senate Resources committees  in the Capitol Auditorium  this afternoon, as part of a presentation on nuclear energy in Idaho, past and future. Craig offered “a bit of a historic perspective,” saying, “Gov. Andrus saw the problem and took action. Gov. Batt was elected, he was faced with a responsibility to deal with the issue that he was handed when he was elected governor. I was then the U.S. senator, I got a call from our governor saying, ‘Larry, what do we do?’ I assembled the DOE people and the governor and the attorney general came, and the discussion began that ultimately crafted the agreement, unique to all the states in the nation.”

Craig noted that the agreement, which is best known as the Batt Agreement or the nuclear waste settlement agreement, was endorsed by Idaho voters. “Those who embrace the agreement today, and that’s all of us, amongst them were once its enemies and its critics,” he said.

Still, he said, ”There may be some need for change in the future, depending on mission and dynamics and understanding.” Craig compared the waste agreement to the U.S. Constitution. “It’s been changed 27 times over 200 years to fit the changing needs of a changing nation,” he said. “We may want to do that with this agreement in the future to meet the mission of the laboratory.”

Gov. Butch Otter and state Commerce Director Jeff Sayer also are among those addressing lawmakers at this afternoon’s session; you can watch live here. Otter applauded the work of his Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission, in its newly issued review of the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho and nuclear-related activities in the state. “I concur wholeheartedly with the commission’s assessment that the Idaho National Laboratory is a significant state asset,” Otter said. “The state of Idaho should take immediate and long-term steps to enhance the future of the nation’s lead nuclear research and development laboratory that is responsible for over 24,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact on Idaho of more than $3.5 billion.” Click below for more from Otter in his full news release.

Former Govs. Andrus, Batt oppose changes to nuclear waste settlement agreement

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two former governors oppose modifying Idaho's 1995 nuclear cleanup agreement with the federal government after a new draft report suggested changes be considered as part of efforts to assure the Idaho National Laboratory's future. Republican Gov. Phil Batt sent a letter to the Idaho Statesman Monday and Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus wrote to Department of Commerce director Jeff Sayer, who headed up the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission. Sayer's panel last week released a preliminary report to spur public comment about Idaho's nuclear future. Its authors wrote, among other things, that changes to the 1995 pact could help preserve the INL's status as America's lead nuclear energy laboratory. To that, Batt cautioned Sayer against “modification of my nuclear waste agreement,” while Andrus reiterated his opposition to accepting more nuclear waste.

Public comment sought on positioning INL as nation’s key nuclear research site

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter announced today that his Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission has presented a “progress report” to the state and is seeking public comment. “I think this progress report clearly points out that the environmental cleanup envisioned by my predecessors has largely been realized while at the same time we’ve established INL as the nation’s preeminent nuclear research and development laboratory,” Otter said in a statement. “There’s been significant economic benefit to the entire state.  As we sustain and even try to build on that in the future, the Commission is working to answer some tough questions and I applaud its effort to involve the public in that discussion before making final recommendations.”

Click below for Otter's full announcement and a list of FAQ's about the report. You can read the 52-page report here. Among its central questions:  Should Idaho modify then-Gov. Phil Batt's 1995 nuclear waste settlement agreement to allow additional nuclear materials to be brought to INL for research or other purposes, to maintain its mission as the nation's lead nuclear energy laboratory? The report's preliminary recommendation: Yes, at least in the context of specific research and manufacturing proposals. The report calls for significant investments at INL to make it the place for “concentrating and consolidating the nation’s nuclear energy research capability.”

Current, former governors clash over nuke waste; all say stick with ‘95 pact

In the past few days, three Idaho governors - former Govs. Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt and current Gov. Butch Otter - have published guest opinions in the Idaho Statesman newspaper with strongly worded messages about potential changes in the nuclear waste agreement Batt famously negotiated with the feds, guaranteeing that Idaho won't become the nation's future nuke waste repository. Today, Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker sorts through the charges; you can read his full report here. The upshot: Both Andrus and Batt are urging Otter to stick with the 1995 agreement, and despite possible changes outlined by current INL Director John Grossenbacher, Otter is pledging that he will.

Fed audit says millions wasted to avoid sending Hanford, Wash. jobs to Idaho

An inspector general’s audit says the U.S. Department of Energy is spending an extra $25 million because it didn’t ship certain radioactive wastes from Hanford to Idaho for processing, in part because Hanford workers protested that the move would shift jobs to Idaho; click below to read the full story from reporter Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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