IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - You've seen and heard the political ads for Idaho's 2nd Congressional District race. You can tell it is a hotly-contested one, but how well do you really know the candidates? Bryan Smith is challenging incumbent Mike Simpson in the Republican primary, May 20. Democrat Richard Stallings will wait to see which candidate he will face in the general election this fall. Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz interviewed all three and asked them about funding, support, and the future mission of the Idaho National Laboratory.
"I think the future of the INL is very bright. We were able, in this last appropriation bill, to increase funding for the Idaho National Lab substantially that allows them to do many of the things that are important, not just for southeast Idaho, but for our country. And they do not only nuclear energy research, but also non-proliferation activities. They do renewable energy work out there and many other things. You go out to University Boulevard, those are all new buildings that have been built, because frankly, I was able to get some Congressionally-directed spending, otherwise known as an earmark, to build a utility corridor. If that had not been done, none of those buildings would be there today," said Republican incumbent Mike Simpson.
"I believe one of the problems that we have with the nuclear energy industry and something that is hurting the site is our country does not have a national energy plan that focuses on nuclear energy. We are focusing on batteries and wind and solar power. These things are not reliable. Nuclear energy is the future to our energy issues. And what we have also is a problem with the permitting process. It takes over 30 years. The last plants that were permitted took 32 years to get five plants permitted. You cannot attract private sector dollars into the energy field, into the nuclear energy field when you don't have a national policy that promotes nuclear power and you don't have a permitting process that allows you to achieve it once you promote it," said Republican challenger Bryan Smith.
"I've been critical that we haven't really worked at defining a mission for them. I think it's sort of a, we take it for granted that the INL is going to be out here for a long time and that we are going to continue these great jobs and Idaho will continue to prosper because of it. I'm not sure you can count on that because you had two members of our delegation vote against it this time, you had Mr. (Raul) Labrador from the 1st District and you had Sen. (Jim) Risch, both of which voted against. Well, if you can't get the Idaho delegation supporting your projects, it's going to be pretty tough to get senators from New York and California and Connecticut very supportive, so I think, I think we need some changes there," said Democratic challenger Richard Stallings.