Friday, September 9, 2005

Pu238: A sucker deal

Perhaps it's because political party loyalty is more vital than hard-nosed common sense to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne that he was in a rush to endorse production of plutonium-238 production at Idaho National Laboratory.

As someone remarked acidly, the governor folded quicker than a cheap suit.

At the very least, he should have held out until the Department of Energy put into writing its explicit, ironclad plans for removing waste by-products from the plutonium production and disposing of it. Given the murky need offered up for space batteries, and serious questions about the threat their manufacture poses to the entire region, the governor should have given serious consideration to opposing the project altogether.

Now, having given its stamp of approval to the project, Idaho is stuck with waiting for written guarantees on disposal and safety measures, which may or may not come.

There's nothing to stop the federal government from telling Idaho, "Sorry, disposal plans will have to come later: Production of plutonium-238 is an urgent national defense matter."

Regrettably, the Bush administration's word on so many fronts has been incurably lacking, second only to its cavalier attitude about respecting and protecting the environment.

Gov. Kempthorne should try to salvage his ill-advised and hasty acquiescence to a deal with no guarantees by badgering DOE until it sends written disposal and safety plans. Better, he should change his mind.

Otherwise, Idaho will have been suckered—willingly—into a deal that is too casual about protection of the state and its people. We have enough of that attitude coming out of Washington.

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