Build It, But Don’t Let It Come


Cerenkov glow is radiation from nuclear reactor fuel rods underwater at INEL.

Idaho old-timers (and perhaps some not-so-old-timers) will recall that in 1995, an agreement was signed between the State of Idaho, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The agreement was championed by then-Governor Phil Batt (Republican) and former Governor Cecil Andrus (Democrat), and ratified by a popular referendum (a citizen vote).

No doubt the full text of the agreement occupies reams of paperwork (in government fashion), but for most of us common folk, the takeaway was that ALL spent nuclear fuel would be removed from Idaho by 2035 or earlier. And if the DOE failed to meet that deadline, Idaho could levy a fine of $60,000 per day.

At the time, the agreement was hailed by everybody who was concerned about radioactive waste in our back yard. Maybe we couldn’t get rid of it today, or even by next year. But there was a date off in the future (40 years in the future) when we’d be rid of it.

An overview of the 1995 agreement can be seen on the state’s Environmental Quality website.

So – how does the announcement of a new $1.6 billion nuclear waste processing facility mesh with that agreement?

The most informative article about the new facility that I’ve found, is on the Spokane Spokesman-Review website

According to that Keith Ridler article, “the new facility is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.” So, I guess it’s our patriotic duty to embrace it, huh? (Regardless of the fact that we’re 500 miles away from the nearest ocean.)

Preparation of the facility is slated to begin next year; it is anticipated to start operating in 2024. That’s only 11 years before ALL stored nuclear waste must be removed from the state, according to the earlier 1995 agreement. In addition, the S-R article states, “the nation has no repository for spent nuclear fuel at this time, so where it will go is not clear.”

Idaho State Police officer guards a train carrying nuclear waste before returning it to Colorado.

Governor Otter has seemed much less strident than predecessors Andrus and Batt, in his efforts to limit nuclear waste shipments to our fair state. (Otter correctly observes that we are the recipients of lots of federal and federal-contractor money, on account of “The Site” in eastern Idaho. The earlier guys threatened to block the railroad tracks by standing on them.) But still… is it our destiny to be the eternal nuclear waste dump? When should we start feeling like the Indians who signed treaties with Forked-Tongue Paleface?

Maybe our game plan should be to cooperate with the construction of the facility, and collect the $1.6 billion… and then refuse to let any nuclear waste be shipped there. Such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented… Nevada and their influential Senator Harry Reid were happy to build a nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain (which cost us taxpayers an estimated $8 billion), and not one ounce of waste has been stored there.

Or maybe we should start figuring out how to divvy up that $60K-per-day “fine” from the feds. If my calculator is working, that’s about $22 million per year. 2035 dollars won’t go as far as 1995 dollars, but that’s still a pretty penny! Perhaps we can all enjoy a state tax cut, even if our aquifer has to be eternally monitored for radioactivity, and the horizon glows an eerie green at night.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Criticality
    Dec 7, 2016, 12:43 pm

    No no no, that’s the blue glow and metallic taste of freedom editor (says the patriotic fool who does not see the trend and trickery). Never mind a bunch of the waste is probably not even from the USA.

    EDITOR NOTE–Critic, if you wish to research your comment further, we will post the entire comment. Your claims regarding France dumping in the sea are simply not truthful…perhaps in the past, but today France is a leader in nuke waste management. Dumping in the sea has been banned by international treaties for the past quarter century. Offer facts, not scare tactics please.

  2. All the spent fuel and all other nuclear waste needs to go to the completed and fully functional long term storage facility in Nevada.

    Maybe Mr Trump can get the key to open the door and open it.

  3. Nuclear has never been about producing power, but about making nuclear bombs. When all the energy inputs to a nuclear reactor are accounted for, the power “produced” is equal to the power invested. Nuclear powered ships are really just using a fancy and extremely dangerous battery.
    If they destroy the Snake River Aquifer, that just creates a wonderful new opportunity for the oligarchs to sell people bottled water at outrageous prices.

    EDITOR NOTE–We will let this post stand, but calling a nuclear reactor a “battery” is simply not accurate. It is a heat source just like coal, wood, gas, etc. which is used to boil water and turn it to STEAM which spins a turbine.

  4. Let me clarify… Nuclear power “produced” is about equal to the energy used to create it, so it is not an energy source like wood, coal, or oil, which produce a large net energy gain. I can’t remember the source, but nuclear power has been referred to as a “battery” by energy experts, since it is a way to store energy for future use. Hydrogen is also considered a form of a battery, but you lose 40% of the power in creating the hydrogen, so it is a big net energy loser.

  5. Rod in SE Boise
    Dec 8, 2016, 9:20 pm

    Sen. Reid was against Yucca Mountain.

    Any mention of how much volume they want to bring in?

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