Several Democratic senators called Wednesday for halting nuclear waste shipments to Idaho until the federal government resumes the search for an alternative.
Former U.S. Rep. Richard Stallings, D-Idaho, announced late Tuesday that he will be closing the federal Nuclear Waste Negotiator’s Office in about a week due to lack of federal funding. Stallings has headed the agency, with offices in Boise and Washington, D.C., for more than a year.
The office was created in 1987 to find 25- to 40-year storage for the nuclear waste generated by the nation’s approximately 100 nuclear power plants. Despite discussions with various governors and Indian tribes over the past eight years, no site for the reactors’ waste ever has materialized.
“Their (the plants’) wet pools are filling up with the spent fuel,” said Stallings. The U.S. Department of Energy has promised to take possession of the fuel by 1998. It could be left on-site at the plants, Stallings said, but “there’s a large number that have just run out of space.”
The Department of Energy plans eventually to entomb commercial waste at a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But the site still is being studied, with its opening scheduled for after the turn of the century.
With the search for an interim site stopped, state Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, and other senators feel nuclear waste could be brought to Idaho and stay there.
“This is a very scary omen,” Reed said.
Former Gov. Cecil Andrus warned two weeks ago that the state is opening the door to radioactive waste by allowing eight shipments of U.S. Navy nuclear waste to go the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls. Andrus fought - and lost - a high-profile battle against such shipments in 1991.
Gov. Phil Batt has said he had little choice but to allow the shipments. The Navy would have prevailed in court on grounds of national security, he said.
The Energy Department has proposed long-term temporary storage of high-level nuclear waste in Idaho, South Carolina and Washington state. Under the proposal, INEL would store all Navy waste; South Carolina’s Savannah River site would store spent foreign reactor fuel; the Hanford Nuclear Reservation would store spent fuel from its own reactors.
A final decision is due in June.
It’s not clear whether the Navy waste ever would be moved from Idaho to Nevada.
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Rich Roesler Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.