Former Idaho governors aim to stop nuclear waste shipments

BOISE -- Two former Idaho governors are threatening a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy if the agency continues with plans for nuclear waste shipments to Idaho. They also blame current state leaders for allowing the shipments, but the attorney general and current governor tell a different story.

Thursday morning, former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus called a press conference to talk about their opposition to what they say are planned shipments of commercial nuclear waste to the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho. Andrus says those shipments could potentially harm the environment, as the waste would be stored above the Snake River Aquifer, "Above the aquifer is absolutely the poorest place in the world for you to store this material."

They also believe by not notifying the public of how this waste would be treated or stored at INL, the DOE violated federal law.

Now, Andrus says they might sue the DOE, "Which we are prepared to do, and intend to do if it's necessary. We hope it isn't."

They also blamed Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden for allowing the shipments. Andrus and Batt say the shipments violate the 1995 Batt Settlement, an agreement both governors worked hard for, which prevents commercial nuclear waste shipments to Idaho.

"If Butch's Administration wants to bring more in, they should take it to the people," said Batt. "They're the ones who said they didn't want any more."

But, the Attorney General's Office provided letters from the AG and the governor to the Department of Energy showing that they would only allow those shipments if a state-of-the-art Integrated Waste Treatment Unit was operational at INL and the DOE was in compliance with the 1995 agreement.

The waste would be used for research and mean $200 million over 10 years for the lab and state.

That's something Gov. Otter highlighted.

"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 settlement agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me.

It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up, under the terms of the agreement, including removal of all materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards.

It is clear the former governors see the lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities."


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