Idaho's nuclear future has been the ongoing topic of discussion and debate for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission.
Now the commission is offering its recommendations for Idaho in a 52-page report issued Monday.
The report is merely a draft of recommendations to the Idaho Legislature, and it makes bold statements, even recommending to change a landmark waste clean-up agreement.
“This is the fork in the road, I believe,” said Lane Allgood, director of Partnership for Science and Technology. “More than likely not all of the DOE national labs are going to survive, and as stakeholders, I believe that we need to make sure ours is one that does.”
Allgood said Idaho should do whatever it can to ensure the state's nuclear future as other states like South Carolina jockey for better positions in the country's nuclear efforts.
Allgood said that would be disastrous for a state depending on $3.5 billion from the nuclear energy industry. But the LINE Commission report says Idaho can't stay in the game without some changes. It even recommends changing the landmark 1995 settlement agreement requiring Idaho's nuclear waste out of the state by 2035.
With the closure of Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, Idaho may be in the perfect position to accept and store waste.
The LINE report doesn't dance around the issue either:
“If Idaho is not willing to consider changes to the 1995 settlement agreement, it is instead willing to allow (the Idaho Nuclear Laboratory) to lose its designation as the lead nuclear energy laboratory,” the commission said.
In a statement, John Grossenbacher, INL Laboratory director, said the issue is worth looking into:
"Both the LINE Commission and its subcommittees discussed whether or not INL could lose research opportunities if the state is unwilling to consider changes to the Settlement Agreement. One example is a proposed research effort related to dry storage of today's high-burnup commercial reactor fuel. The nuclear industry and its regulator need to better understand how today's used fuel will behave under decades-long dry storage conditions. Change to the settlement agreement would be required to bring in to Idaho the 30 to 60 tons of commercial fuel necessary to accomplish this work. Does the state want to support that work and INL's leadership role? If the answer is no, then this type of work will be done elsewhere. This is the kind of issue the state needs to discuss."
But not everyone agrees with the report's recommendations.
"The LINE Commission is insisting on preparing for a nuclear future that is not grounded in economic or political reality,” said Liz Woodruff, executive director of the Snake River Alliance. “There is not a new federal policy to respond to and there are no economic resources available for the projects the commission supports. This conversation is premature. The federal government has made a commitment to the people of Idaho to clean up decades of nuclear contamination of our land and above our largest source of fresh water. That is where our attention should be focused. Nuclear waste is not an economic opportunity for Idaho and it never will be.”
Read the commission's full report at http://goo.gl/2tOH9. Information on how to submit comments on the report can be found at Page iv.