Phil Batt's turn: Leave Idaho nuclear agreement intact

Former Gov. Phil Batt — the architect of a 1995 nuclear waste cleanup agreement with the federal government — is urging Idaho to leave the agreement alone.

The deal, upheld by voters in 1996, sets deadlines for Idaho National Laboratory cleanup, and blocks additional shipments of nuclear waste after 2035.

Said Batt, in a letter to the Statesman delivered Monday: "I do not support modification of my nuclear waste agreement nor extending the deadlines specified therein. I doubt that there would be more than a small percentage of Idahoans who would vote to do so, if the question were put before the electorate."

Gov. Butch Otter has convened a panel to study the INL's future. The chairman of the group, state Commerce Department chairman Jeff Sayer, has said Idahoans should at least talk about whether the state should amend the agreement, allowing additional nuclear shipments that could support INL research. Otter says he is opposed to reopening the agreement.

Also Monday, former Gov. Cecil Andrus sent a letter to Sayer, urging the state to leave the agreement intact.

Here is Batt's letter to the editor:

"Regarding the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission commissioned by Gov. Butch Otter.

I commend this group and Chairman Jeff Sayer for their thorough and thoughtful work in assessing the challenges and opportunities regarding nuclear energy in Idaho. It’s difficult and time-consuming work and is important to our state.

As pointed out in the proposed progress report, Idaho Falls and much of Eastern Idaho is highly reliant, economically, on the INL. Idaho must do, responsibly, what it can to preserve the jobs and economy of that section of our state.

Many of the proposed expansions and preservation of INL and other nuclear-dependent facilities can be obtained only with greatly increased federal and state funding. I doubt these would be forthcoming.

I do not support modification of my nuclear waste agreement nor extending the deadlines specified therein. I doubt that there would be more than a small percentage of Idahoans who would vote to do so, if the question were put before the electorate.

The LINE Commission proposes to continue its work. I believe that is appropriate. However, the recommendations for the creation of more and duplicative Idaho agencies make little sense to me."

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