There is a theme surfacing in Idaho news lately focused on nuclear waste and the future of the Idaho National Laboratory. The premise of some nuclear proponents is that Idahoans should be willing to have a new conversation about Idahos role in the nations nuclear waste problems. But why have that conversation? Nothing has changed about the nations waste problem or the approach to solving it. Nuclear waste from commercial reactors continues to pile up at each reactor site, and while the Blue Ribbon Commission on Americas Nuclear Future made a number of recommendations about managing that waste, all were already extensively discussed in the 1970s and 1980s. As for Yucca Mountain, it was always a bad location for a permanent repository, for technical and political reasons, which led to its recent foreseeable cancellation. Nothings new on the national stage, and nothing will change about Idahos refusal to take commercial waste.
Idahoans have already said No to the storage or disposal of commercial radioactive waste in Idaho. The 1995 Settlement Agreement explicitly prohibits the storage or disposal of commercial radioactive waste here. But the Settlement Agreement is only one example of the many times the people of Idaho and our leaders have clearly said no to this waste. Since the early 1970s Idaho governors, congressional delegations and other officials, backed strongly by public opinion, have stood on the frontlines of the national nuclear waste debate and sent a clear message to the federal government: Idaho will not be the nations dumping ground. The ballot measure that ratified the 1995 agreement is all the more convincing given that every Idaho voter in 1996 voted to protect Idaho from nuclear waste.
So why do we need to talk again? Idaho has paid its dues in spades as the dumping ground for plutonium contaminated waste from Rocky Flats that will be above our aquifer until the end of time. It is true that the nation has a nuclear waste problem. It is true that there are upwards of 70,000 metric tons of waste from commercial reactors throughout the U.S. (mostly in the East). What is not true is that moving this waste solves the problem. Nuclear waste should be stored as safely as possible as close to its point of generation as possible.
Idaho has said no to commercial radioactive waste again and again. No means no. Nothing has changed in the nations approach to nuclear waste and that means nothing about this conversation is new. We do not need to reconsider. The LINE Commission and the governor would do well to respect this fact and uphold the key protections Idaho worked long and hard to establish.
Liz Woodruff is the executive director of the Snake River Alliance. She was born and raised in Boise.