BOISE – The state of Idaho is supporting a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to start producing plutonium-238 for NASA and national security agencies at the federal nuclear research compound in eastern Idaho.
But in comments submitted Monday to the Energy Department, the state called on the Bush administration to spell out a plan to transfer the highly radioactive waste created at the Idaho National Laboratory to disposal sites out of state.
With those caveats, the administration of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said it will endorse the federal government’s plan to consolidate U.S. production of plutonium-238 “space batteries” at the 890-square-mile complex outside of Idaho Falls.
Unlike plutonium-239, plutonium-238 is not used in nuclear weapons. But because of the heat it generates during a lengthy decay period, the highly toxic material is used as a long-lasting power supply for deep-space satellites and in surveillance devices that are placed underwater or on land.
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