Proposition 3 would void Gov. Phil Batt’s 1995 agreement with the federal government to allow more nuclear waste shipments to Idaho in return for waste cleanup and promises of waste removal within 40 years.
The measure also would require legislative approval and a vote of the people for any future agreement with the feds on nuclear waste.
Supporters of Proposition 3 say the 1995 agreement is a back-room deal that’s full of loopholes, and the people ought to have a say in the matter.
Opponents say canceling the agreement would leave Idaho wide open to unlimited waste shipments - including thousands of tons of waste from commercial nuclear power plants that the federal government will begin receiving within two years.
Experts say that while the deal involving the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory has its weaknesses, so does the initiative.
“There are folks out there who would like to see INEL closed down, and somehow magically all the waste materials sent somewhere else,” said Richard Stallings, a former Democratic congressman who succeeded Leroy as U.S. nuclear waste negotiator.
“It’s not going to happen.”
Without some kind of agreement, Idaho is an easy target for a federal government that’s beset with a growing load of unwanted radioactive waste, Stallings said.
Stallings believes Batt was right to negotiate, though he has deep concerns about the agreement.
He believes Idaho could have gotten a better deal, more money, and better guarantees.
Attorney General Al Lance argues that the initiative is unconstitutional because it voids a contract that he and Batt were legally empowered to sign for the state. If the initiative passes, Lance plans to challenge it in court.
John Peavey, spokesman for the pro-initiative group Stop the Shipments, calls the governor’s agreement “a fraud,” and contends it’s designed “to finish the job of turning Idaho into a nuclear waste dump and processing center.”
Peavey, a former Democratic state senator whose Carey ranch is within 50 miles of the INEL in southeastern Idaho, long has crusaded against nuclear waste at the site.
The INEL sits in an earthquake zone, near possible volcanic activity and over a significant drinking water source.
“We’re setting ourselves up for a world-class Chernobyl,” he said.
Jim Weatherby, a political science professor at Boise State University, said this issue is a tough one for voters, particularly when the debate centers on legalistic details.
“It really comes down to whom do you trust,” Weatherby said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GOV. BATT’S NUCLEAR DEAL Gov. Phil Batt’s nuclear waste agreement, part of a court order settling a lawsuit between the state and the federal government, includes: The U.S. Navy and Department of Energy will seek millions of dollars in funding for projects in Idaho, including $30 million starting in 1996 for projects at INEL and elsewhere. The agreement also promised $7 million for a new facility at the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment at Bayview; Congress approved funding. 1,133 shipments of waste will be allowed into the state over the next 40 years, on a strict schedule; the DOE had proposed 1,940. No commercial waste allowed. Waste already stored at the INEL will be moved out, with the first shipments to leave Idaho no later than 1999. Liquid waste stored over the Snake River Plain Aquifer will be converted to safer dry waste. Hundreds of millions of dollars are to be spent to clean up and reprocess waste at INEL. If the Navy or DOE fail to meet requirements of the agreement, shipments into Idaho must stop. If waste is not removed from Idaho by 2035, the federal government would pay Idaho $60,000 per day in fines.