Any economic development plan based on bringing more nuclear waste into Idaho likely will not fly with the public, two former Idaho governors said Friday.
Democrat Cecil Andrus and Republican Phil Batt told the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission appointed by Gov. Butch Otter that Idahoans won’t stand for bringing more waste for storage above the Snake River Plain Aquifer that supplies water to most of southern Idaho. Batt said he faced a recall and public outcry when he decided to allow Navy waste shipments to resume in early 1995.
Even when he signed the 1995 agreement that set milestones for removing waste, he faced a referendum. But 62 percent of voters approved his plan that required all waste to be removed from the state in 2035.
Admiral John Grossenbacher, the INL’s lab director, and others in eastern Idaho have sought to have a discussion about potential interim storage of commercial nuclear waste at the INL. But Batt didn’t give them much hope — based on the 1995 initiative.
“I think if you would have asked the question how many wanted (waste) storage over there, I don’t think you would have gotten 5 percent of the vote,” Batt said.
Despite his and Andrus’ goal to get the waste out, the decision by the Obama Administration to close the Yucca Flats nuclear waste storage site in Nevada may stop that. Idaho can expect to keep 300 tons of highly radioactive used nuclear fuel rods and dried radioactive waste stored at the Idaho National Laboratory after 2035.
The state would get $22 million a year from the federal government if the waste is not removed, beginning in 2035. The penalty, negotiated as part of the 1995 agreement, appears smaller today.
“It wouldn’t be a real deterrent,” Batt said. “I’m glad it’s in there.”
Andrus said the money should go to education.