As the mayor of Idaho Falls and a member of the governors Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, it is important an Eastern Idaho voice is heard. Lost in the recent flurry of newspaper opinion pieces is the real purpose of the LINE Commission, which is to provide recommendations to leverage Idahos strong existing nuclear industry to do more. Reviewing the settlement agreement is such a very small part of the commissions charter. The more important role is to look to our economic future and determine what we can do to further grow the nuclear industry in Idaho.
Eastern Idahoans do not fear nuclear energy or the used fuel that is stored safely at the Idaho National Laboratory. We are well-educated on the work done at INL and know they do everything possible to protect our environment and our people. We are proud of the many accomplishments to date and have witnessed amazing work done to clean up the legacy waste at INL. What is good for Eastern Idaho is good for Idaho. Eastern Idaho is home to more than 20 companies that employee thousands of Idahoans, contributing millions to Idahos general fund. We would like to see more of this in Eastern Idaho not less.
Many of us in Eastern Idaho recognize the good that the settlement agreement brings in terms of establishing and keeping cleanup commitments. Idaho is the envy of other states that have not been so successful. But here is the reality: Times have changed. Most all commitments in the settlement agreement have been met, and some milestones have been met years ahead of the requirements; development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear fuel repository has been stopped and it will take decades to develop a new repository; and science and technology have made great strides since 1995 when the agreement was signed. So what is wrong with reviewing an agreement that was written over 17 years ago to make sure it still makes sense and still applies to the current situation? My guess is there is room for discussion. And the LINE Commission is the right mechanism to ensure that the right questions are asked and the public has a chance to weigh in.
But again, the purpose of the LINE Commission is not about the settlement agreement, it is about the future of INL and the nuclear energy industry in Idaho and not necessarily just at INL. In fact, the settlement agreement applies only to INL and not to interests off the INL property.
The future of nuclear energy could mean business and jobs for many generations of Idahoans. It also could benefit our educational institutions, our manufacturing companies, and help businesses thrive that care about the community in which they live.
I am very pleased with Gov. Butch Otters creation of the LINE Commission because it focuses leaders and the public in our state on issues associated with Idaho and the future of nuclear energy. It affords Idahos citizens the opportunity to engage in an informed public discussion of the past, present and future of nuclear energy in Idaho, the burdens and benefits of world leadership in an important technology. In my opinion we have nothing to fear from discussions and questions. A public dialogue on such important issues does not constitute a threat, a secret scheme, or commit the state to becoming a home for nuclear waste, nor is it dangerous and short-sighted, as some have implied. Such questions are timely and relevant. They inform us all, and informed citizens have the best chance of making sound decisions about their future.
Jared D. Fuhriman is mayor of Idaho Falls.