Two former Idaho governors are telling Gov. Butch Otter to stick to a 1995 agreement that requires the federal government to remove all nuclear waste from the Idaho National Laboratory in the next 23 years.
Otter responded Wednesday that he has always stood by the agreement.
In separate guest opinions for the Idaho Statesman, Democrat Cecil Andrus and Republican Phil Batt wrote that the agreement, upheld by voters in 1996 by more than 62 percent, should not be renegotiated.
Andrus said Sunday that INL and state government officials were hatching a secret scheme to push for a new agreement.
I have no knowledge of (any scheme), but I can state that we would be foolish, indeed, to renegotiate the agreement and accept commercial spent fuel, Batt wrote.
INL is the nations lead federal laboratory on nuclear energy.
In February, Gov. Butch Otter created the Leadership In Nuclear Energy Commission to examine how the INL can continue its role in state and national economic growth and energy security.
The 13-member panel is chaired by Otter Commerce Department Director Jeff Sayer. When it met April 7, briefing papers by INL officials included a proposal to begin negotiations to revise the settlement to accept additional nuclear waste and to extend the deadline for all waste to leave to 2050.
Andrus guest opinion was based on that 2010 document, since obtained by the Idaho Statesman.
DOCUMENT NOW OBSOLETE
INL Director John Grossenbacher said it was an internal document he shared with staff to outline his thinking at the time and is now outdated.
It was never a formal proposal, he said, and was mistakenly included in the commissions papers this spring.
But the INL chief said he did present the idea of revising the settlement to Otter in 2010.
He was appropriately skeptical and serious about this. He didnt stand up and cheer and say, Lets go do this, Grossenbacher said
Very mindful of the settlement agreement, he didnt decide anything or promise anything.
In a guest opinion he submitted Wednesday, Otter was clear that he isnt budging.
Ill say this as plainly and as unequivocally as I can: Idaho will NOT be a repository for nuclear waste, Otter wrote. There is no scheme secret or otherwise and I have stated repeatedly and publicly that Idaho will not be the nations nuclear dumping ground.
Grossenbacher took issue with Andrus characterization of his discussion as a scheme or conspiracy.
The thoughts and ideas and proposals of the INL lab director do not constitute a scheme, Grossenbacher said.
In 2011, Otter ignored Andrus opposition to a Department of Energy plan to trade about 880 pounds of federal waste with an equal amount of commercial waste that is used for research at the INL. But Batt backed up Otter and the DOEs interpretation that the 1995 agreement did allow such trades.
Grossenbachers 2010 proposal called for Idaho to accept interim storage of 3,000 tons of orphan spent fuel from commercial reactors that have been shut down, such as the Trojan Nuclear Reactor west of Portland. But Grossenbacher said New Mexico already has expressed an interest in the spent fuel.
He said Idaho could create jobs and help solve the nuclear waste storage problems that arose when President Barack Obama decided not to place 70,000 tons of spent fuel in the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada and could do that without revising the Batt agreement. But it also could do more if Idahoans chose to make revisions.
The people of the state of Idaho sustained my nuclear waste agreement by a wide margin, Batt wrote in Thursdays Statesman. Any substantive changes should not be accepted without a similar percentage of Idahoans demanding it.
Former Atomic Energy Commission Chairwoman Dixie Lee Ray first promised to then-Gov. Andrus in 1972 that the federal government would remove buried radioactive waste from Idaho. The feds missed the first deadline in the late 1970s and the second one in 1988.
Weve been lied to and weve been cheated, Andrus told members of the Idaho Conservation League at a conference Saturday at Redfish Lake Lodge near Stanley.
Andrus closed Idaho to further waste shipments in 1988, sending the Idaho State Patrol to the border to enforce the ban. Batt allowed several shipments shortly after taking office in early 1995.
But amid a public outcry, he stopped the shipments until the DOE signed the landmark agreement, which included timetables for removing buried waste and spent fuel.
That deal meant commercial spent fuel was specifically banned from storage at the INL, with a few exceptions. If the federal government doesnt remove all of the waste from Idaho by 2035, it is required to pay the state $60,000 a day.
If any other deadlines are missed, the state can ask a federal court to halt further shipments of spent fuel from Navy reactors to the INL. But the federal decision not to open Yucca Mountain leaves the nation with no place to send the 300 tons of spent fuel an estimated 3,051 shipments it must remove from the INL.
Grossenbacher also pointed out that without another place to take the waste, the federal government would have to pay Idaho about $21.9 million annually $358.5 million over 15 years.
But Otter left little room for doubt.
I was lieutenant governor to both Gov. Andrus and Gov. Batt throughout this process, and I will continue to hold the federal government accountable under the 1995 agreement, he wrote in the guest opinion.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484