Keeping Nuke Waste Out of Idaho
July 13, 2015- Advocates for the West submitted initial comments on behalf of Governors Andrus and Batt to the Department of Energy on its draft Supplemental Analysis for two proposed commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments to INL. Executive Director Laird Lucas slammed DOE for providing “false and misleading information to the public,” including by misrepresenting Idaho’s willingness to waive the 1995 Batt Settlement Agreement, which prohibits the shipments. The comments also faulted DOE for avoiding its duty to fully disclose its planned actions and evaluate alternatives under NEPA.
The Governors’ comments also pointed out that DOE has failed to provide relevant documents under FOIA, which Governor Andrus requested in January. The DOE has withheld or redacted dozens of pages of documents, effectively stonewalling the public – see “DOE Redacted Docs” below.
On March 5, 2015, Advocates for the West announced it would be representing former Idaho governors Cecil D. Andrus and Philip E. Batt in a call to the State of Idaho and the federal Department of Energy to fully disclose their plans for shipments of commercial spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Representing the Governors, Director of Litigation Laird Lucas sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz expressing deep concern about planned commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments to INL – due in particular to the threat of high-level and other nuclear waste potential impacts to the Snake River Plain Aquifer.
The letter notifies DOE that it is violating a key federal law – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – by not publicly disclosing these plans or analyzing how the spent fuel will be treated and stored at INL. DOE plans to spend $200 million over ten years for commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments to Idaho for testing purposes, but has not disclosed how the spent fuel will be treated. Under NEPA the agency must analyze alternatives, environmental impacts and provide that information to the public.
“We hope to avoid bringing federal litigation over DOE’s plans to ship commercial spent nuclear fuel to Idaho,” said the former governors,” but we are prepared to take that step if necessary. It is vital that the citizens of Idaho be fully informed before the federal government again tries to turn Idaho into a nuclear waste dumping ground.”
The 1995 “Batt Settlement Agreement” resolved federal court lawsuits begun under Governor Andrus to prevent DOE from turning INL into the nation’s nuclear waste dumping ground. A key provision prohibits shipments of spent nuclear fuel from commercial utilities. However, current Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden indicated in January that they would “waive” this ban to allow DOE to begin commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments to INL beginning in June 2015.
Former governors Andrus and Batt also sent a second letter to Governor Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, asking them to join with the former governors in pressuring the DOE to comply with federal law. “The precedent set by allowing these commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments demands that DOE’s plans be fully disclosed to the public and analyzed, and Idaho’s leadership should make sure that happens,” they stated.
Advocates for the West is proud to represent Governors Andrus and Batt in this important effort to keep nuclear waste out of Idaho and protect the Snake River Aquifer from potentially devastating contamination of this irreplaceable water source.