Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus is now endorsing his successor’s nuclear waste deal, eight months after expressing serious reservations that the federal government could be forced to hold up its end.
With former Republican U.S. Sen. James McClure, Andrus issued a threepage statement in which he says Gov. Phil Batt’s Oct. 16 agreement has put Idaho on the right course to assure waste cleanup at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and eventually focus the facility’s efforts on research rather than radioactive storage.
“While the agreement may not be perfect - few negotiated agreements are - it is practical, comprehensive, honest and above all absolutely essential to Idaho and the future of INEL,” Andrus and McClure wrote.
Andrus, who started the running battle with the federal government over radioactive dumping at INEL in 1988, and McClure have both been serving as consultants to Lockheed Martin, whose subsidiary runs the INEL for the Energy Department.
Their statement was issued less than two weeks before the July 5 deadline for Batt critics to submit 41,335 registered voter signatures to win general election ballot status for an initiative that would void the deal.
They claim the agreement is full of loopholes that will permit the federal government, with its history of broken promises and missed deadlines, to essentially renege on requirements to clean up existing waste and remove most of it and all 1,133 new shipments by 2035.
While federal courts will enforce the shipment limits and with the detailed cleanup and removal timetable, noncompliance will only affect half of the new shipments. There is essentially no way under the deal to stop the 55 tons of nuclear Navy waste from being dumped at the INEL.
Andrus expressed much the same concerns just four days after Batt signed the agreement last fall. But rather than criticize Batt, his longtime friend, Andrus blasted Republican Sen. Larry Craig for letting Congress threaten to force more waste on the state without cleanup or removal concessions, leaving Batt little leverage in negotiating.
And in response to an earlier statement by Craig that Andrus endorsed the deal, the former governor said flatly, “Larry Craig is in error.”
But now, Andrus and McClure maintain the Batt deal provides a plan for eventual removal of most nuclear waste, processing of dangerous liquid waste into a more stable form for shipment out of the state, cleanup of buried waste and removal of plutonium-contaminated waste beginning in 1999.
It precludes dumping commercial nuclear waste in Idaho, and waste now stored over the state’s major underground water source must be moved to a less hazardous location.