Otter praises Idaho nuclear commission for answering 'some tough questions'

Idahoans will have the next month to comment on a "progress report" submitted by a gubernatorial panel reviewing the mission of the Idaho National Laboratory.

On Monday, Gov. Butch Otter hailed the work of his Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission.

“I think this progress report clearly points out that the environmental cleanup envisioned by my predecessors has largely been realized while at the same time we’ve established INL as the nation’s preeminent nuclear research and development laboratory. There’s been significant economic benefit to the entire state. As we sustain and even try to build on that in the future, the commission is working to answer some tough questions and I applaud its effort to involve the public in that discussion before making final recommendations.”

The progress report also broaches seven questions about the INL's future. One touchy on a sensitive issue: nuclear shipments to Idaho, and the 1995 voter-approved agreement that requires the Department of Energy to remove all nuclear waste from INL by 2035. The question: "Given the Blue Ribbon Commission focus on consent-based siting and the suspension of the Yucca Mountain repository, in what way can Idaho’s 1995 Settlement Agreement protect the state’s interests to support and enhance research and development at INL and complete the cleanup mission?"

Otter, following the lead of former Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus, has said he will not renegotiate the 1995 agreement to allow additional waste shipments into Idaho.

Here's the news release from Otter's office:

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter today encouraged the people of Idaho to review the progress of his Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission and to begin a public dialogue on critical questions facing the Idaho National Laboratory and their potential impact on Idaho’s economy.

“The timing was right for an extensive, external review of INL and nuclear-related activities in Idaho,” Governor Otter said. “I think this progress report clearly points out that the environmental cleanup envisioned by my predecessors has largely been realized while at the same time we’ve established INL as the nation’s preeminent nuclear research and development laboratory. There’s been significant economic benefit to the entire state. As we sustain and even try to build on that in the future, the commission is working to answer some tough questions and I applaud its effort to involve the public in that discussion before making final recommendations.”

LINE Commission Chairman Jeffery Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, established five subcommittees that performed detailed research on key topics. Non-commission members with valuable knowledge and perspectives were invited to participate in the subcommittee process. Subcommittees came up with more than 60 recommendations for the public and the full commission to consider.

“While the findings and recommendations of the various subcommittees are preliminary, in keeping with its commitment to an open and inclusive process the LINE Commission believes that public review and comment at this juncture will provide valuable insights necessary to complete a final report,” Chairman Sayer said. “Specifically, the commission is looking for comments on seven challenging questions facing the INL and the nuclear industry — and how the state of Idaho can navigate through those challenges.”

In its final report to the Governor, the Commission will use the subcommittee recommendations, input from the public and its own deliberations to finalize recommendations on the following questions:

1. What strategic role can the INL and Idaho’s nuclear industry play in the country’s energy future?

2. In light of reduced federal spending, what impacts may affect INL and what role can Idaho play to protect INL research and cleanup funding?

3. What broad environmental risks are posed by nuclear technologies and what mitigating steps are reasonable to protect public health and the environment from current and future applications of nuclear technology in Idaho?

4. Where is nuclear technology going and what role and/or opportunities exist for INL and Idaho companies in those technology developments?

5. Given the Blue Ribbon Commission focus on consent-based siting and the suspension of the Yucca Mountain repository, in what way can Idaho’s 1995 Settlement Agreement protect the state’s interests to support and enhance research and development at INL and complete the cleanup mission?

6. How can Idaho’s universities influence, support and participate in the future of nuclear energy, nuclear workforce development, and advancements in nuclear technologies?

7. Following the impacts of the Fukushima tsunami and the recent market impact of natural gas, what future role will nuclear energy play in the nation’s energy policies and what can Idaho do to prepare for that future?”

“The conversation about nuclear energy in Idaho is of utmost importance; thus, the entire state and interested national parties need to be included,” Sayer said. “Receiving meaningful feedback from interested parties will be a valuable resource for the commission as it develops final recommendations to the Governor.”

The LINE Commission’s Progress Report and the complete subcommittee recommendations are available on the LINE Commission’s Web site at www.line.idaho.gov. Public comments can be submitted to the Commission on that same Web site or through the U.S. mail at:

LINE Commission
c/o Idaho Department of Commerce
700 W State St.
PO Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0093

Please submit comments by close of business on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Comments received will be considered by the commission as it prepares a final report to the governor, which will be submitted by Jan. 31, 2013.