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Nuclear Scientist Tries to Put the Brakes on Idaho’s Nuclear Race

January 14, 2008

Boise, ID – Nuclear power is suddenly one of the hottest energy topics for Idaho. Three plants have been proposed in various parts of the state during the past year, as the industry seizes on the nation's new desire to produce electricity without climate-changing carbon pollution.

Nuclear fusion engineer Arjun Makhijani, with the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, says the Idaho projects have public relations campaigns that tout their economic benefits, but there are numerous problems with the science, water use, and most of all, with disposal of the nuclear waste they will produce. He says Idaho has a better energy production option already, in its own airshed.

"Wind energy is generally more economical in the favorable parts of the state than nuclear energy, and you don't have the waste headaches, and you don't have any water use."

Governor Butch Otter is backing nuclear power plant development, and the Idaho Legislature is expected to take up the topic in the coming weeks. Plants have been proposed for Owyhee and Payette counties, and at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls.

Makhijani, an advisor to the Snake River Alliance, Idaho's "Nuclear Watchdog and Clean Energy Advocate," says power plant nuclear waste should be a sensitive issue for the state, where nuclear waste stored at INL already threatens the Snake River Aquifer.

"There's an assumption that nuclear waste will be sent to Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but Yucca Mountain is not licensed, and the Department of Energy has not even made an application for license yet."

Information about energy-related legislation can be found at

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID