Longtime Idahoans remember being shocked some 40 years ago when it was revealed the INL was dumping radioactive waste water directly into the volcanic, porous ground above the Snake River Aquifer; the source of our agricultural irrigation and the water supply for thousands.
Many have seen the pictures from the ’70s of trucks dumping blue barrels full of transuranic waste into ditches at the site.
Public outcry stopped those specific practices. But that waste is still there. Radioactive isotopes have leached into the aquifer. Tons and tons of other people’s nuclear waste kept arriving.
In 1995 Gov. Phil Batt worked a deal with the U.S. Department of Energy: In exchange for a limited amount of new military waste shipments (the “nuclear Navy,” Three Mile Island, etc.) the DOE would: 1) Build a permanent site for those (and previous) shipments, and 2) Clean up the mess that was already there.
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The agreed-to shipments began to arrive. Neither the permanent storage nor the cleanup has happened.
The military waste shipments that were allowed into Idaho continue to this day; I saw new shipments in rail cars at the Pocatello yard two weeks ago.
Many of us anti-nuclear types, including the Snake River Alliance, opposed the Batt 1995 Agreement at the time, believing it was too weak; it allowed for too much waste and caved in to the Feds.
But, even if too weak, it was at least some kind of a brake on the seemingly endless shipments to our state. Idaho voters approved the Batt Agreement. Even the campaign slogan of the pro-Batt Agreement forces, including INL itself, was ”Keep the Waste Out.”
Now, those same forces want to get rid of the Batt Agreement altogether; not because it’s too weak, but because it’s too strong. It doesn’t allow enough waste in. It commits the feds and our state to clean-up. Apparently, they want more waste, with no permanent repository in sight, and they want it without a commitment for cleanup. They want to throw out the people’s referendum vote. The governor has used state dollars to support this campaign by creating the Leaders In Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission. One of the appointed members is Larry Craig.
The DOE is coming to Boise on Thursdayfor a discussion of whether Idaho is willing to throw out the Batt Agreement. The federal jargon being used is whether Idaho is now willing to become a become a “Consent State;” volunteering to allow tons and tons of new shipments of commercial waste generated by the dying nuclear power plant industry (in our own country and overseas.)
The meeting is being held 5 to 9:30 p.m., at the Boise Centre on the Grove.
The public is invited to listen, ask questions and comment.
Brent Marchbanks is a retired lawyer and longtime Boise resident. He remains active in social issues.
Consent-based Siting Public Meeting
The U.S. Department of Energy is hosting a public meeting on how to deal with the stockpiles of nuclear waste around the country. Several speakers and presentations are on the program, which begins with an informal open house at 4 p.m. and then is followed by the meeting from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St., Boise.