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Nuke Waste "Road Show" This Week in Idaho

PHOTO: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
PHOTO: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
March 2, 2015

POCATELLO, Idaho - Nuclear waste has a complicated history in Idaho, and many of those complications have resurfaced because of the shutdown of a waste storage site in New Mexico and a decision by the Governor to allow Idaho to accept spent nuclear fuel.

The Snake River Alliance is holding meetings this week to explain what's going on, starting tonight in Pocatello. Beatrice Brailsford, nuclear program director with the Alliance, says the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is doing all the right things to make sure cleanup of nuclear waste at the site continues, even with the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

"Low-level waste can go to other places," Brailsford says. "They have looked at their storage options and see a lot of places where waste can be stored."

Brailsford says the second issue for Idahoans to watch is the plan to accept spent nuclear fuel. She calls that a clear violation of the national agreement that protects Idaho from new waste shipments until all the waste already stored at INL, much of considered stored in an unsafe manner, is removed.

Idaho Legislators will listen to presentations Wednesday and presentations will also be made in Ketchum on Thursday.

Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden argue the spent fuel is for a new project but Brailsford disagrees. She finds fault with their additional reasoning.

"That somehow if we agreed to let in a little more waste, that will somehow speed the shipment out of waste that's already here," she says. "That's just simply irrational."

The New Mexico pilot plant was shut down after two serious accidents, and Brailsford says reopening it is going to take some time. The Department of Energy is estimating that limited operations might resume next year.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID