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Navy Seems Determined To Send Waste To Idaho

The nuclear Navy’s top officer appears to be testing Republican Gov. Phil Batt’s new resolve against any more waste shipments into Idaho.

In a Feb. 10 letter responding to Batt’s declaration three days earlier that “Idaho is no longer available,” Admiral Bruce DeMars, chief of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, left no doubt that the government would pursue radioactive shipments far beyond the eight former Gov. Cecil Andrus opened the door to and Batt declined to block.

“I am sorry you feel that you must stand against further naval spent fuel shipments into Idaho beyond those of our recent agreement,” DeMars wrote. “This is a matter that must be decided by the rules of law and the Navy will proceed accordingly.”

Batt, stung by the public outcry because he refused to go to court over the eight additional shipments the Navy was sure to be authorized, advised DeMars, President Clinton and others last week that his concession was not to be seen as an invitation to make Idaho the nation’s nuclear waste dump.

And as he has since the public outcry began a month ago, Batt reiterated his commitment to resist with every means available any new shipments until there is real progress toward opening a permanent dump outside Idaho. He has not ruled out using State Police to stop shipments at the border as Andrus did.

Batt spokeswoman Amy Kleiner said the governor had no comment on DeMars’ letter.

Outraged that the administration had decided to concentrate all nuclear waste storage at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Hanford, and in South Carolina, Batt maintained that with 600 shipments of Navy waste already stored at INEL the state has done its part for the national defense.

But DeMars disputed that contention, claiming Idaho has not been disproportionately disadvantaged.

And he contended that Idaho has benefited substantially from the Navy waste activity at INEL, claiming the value at $8 billion over the past four decades but only after including all the inflation of the past 30 years.