Rebuffed by a federal appellate court in its bid to resume dumping nuclear waste in Idaho, the Navy is now threatening to yank its Naval Reactors Facility - and 1,000 workers - off the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.
Less than 24 hours after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against it last week, the Navy initiated procedures to develop a new test facility elsewhere.
Gov. Phil Batt pointed out through spokeswoman Amy Kleiner that the Navy’s latest assault on the state would have no effect on his refusal to allow additional waste shipments to INEL without a directive from the courts.
“The Navy is a welcome and important presence in Idaho,” Batt said, “but I am representing the views of a majority of Idahoans.”
The July 7 memorandum from D.I. Curtis, director of the Navy’s reactor materials division, said that because of the courts’ refusal to resume dumping “Naval Reactors must now embark upon more detailed planning to develop such a facility outside the state of Idaho.”
It was the second Navy communication state officials are interpreting as a threat of retribution for their refusal to voluntarily allow the Navy to resume dumping radioactive waste at INEL without validating the government’s June 1 conclusion that additional dumping can occur safely. The state maintains the environmental assessment from which that conclusion was drawn was faulty and is pressing its claim in court.
“While it is clear that the state is entitled to exercise its legal rights,” Admiral Bruce DeMars, head of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, wrote to Idaho Republican Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, “I believe that its actions indicate that the long term future of the Nuclear Navy in Idaho has taken a fundamental change for the worse.”
In the July 7 letter, DeMars reiterated to Kempthorne that national security is being jeopardized by the state’s refusal to accept additional waste shipments - claims he has been making since before the Navy agreed to cease shipments until a valid environmental study confirmed they could be resumed safely.
The Curtis memo directed Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory officials who run the INEL Naval Reactors Facility to identify alternatives to its INEL test facility.