Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Idaho vulnerable to radioactive waste


In January, Gov. Butch Otter announced the third sudden change in the infamous 1995 nuclear waste deal that promised to "get the waste out." The ban on importing spent fuel from commercial reactors was reversed, and commercial waste is now welcomed. Ex-Gov. Cecil Andrus opposed the profound change, saying, "All it takes is a human error or a catastrophic situation like an earthquake to ruin what everybody in this state holds dear."

On March 11, an earthquake devastated a sophisticated Japanese nuclear power site, forcing evacuations and ruining the local crops and water supply, which so many held dear. The extent of the damage and how to contain it are still unknown by the experts who have always told innocent citizens that catastrophes can never happen with their triple-layer safety knowledge. The documented truth is that these nuclear disasters can be caused by human error, disgruntled employees, foreign terrorism and even computer viruses, according to Homeland Security.

So why does Andrus promote even more dangerous nuclear projects as a lobbyist? Why did he endorse the first deal change with Otter, which left more than 90 percent of the buried plutonium in this flood zone over our water? Why is Idaho stuck with the melted Three Mile Island core and importing spent fuel, while Nevada successfully defended its state's right to not be a waste dump? The answer is simple: Nevada denied the federal government any state air quality permit. State air quality permits are the only power of denial a state has, and Republicans and Democrats in Nevada fought to defend their state.

So why are the Idaho politicians promoting plutonium-238 production around the rickety Advanced Test Reactor, where three bolts holding a seismic wall anchor for a heat exchanger literally fell out, without a real earthquake? The Gerry Spence crew in Jackson, Wyo., has a lawsuit to inspect more safety-flaw documents, while our attorney general promotes nuclear experiments (see The documents show 5 million curies of radioactive iodine-131 could be released through the roof in an accident, so why are we permitting this?

[A message from INL to the Idaho Mountain Express received last week states that "there may be 5 million curies of I-131 in the ATR core, but what could conceivably be released in even the most extreme accident is orders of magnitude (at least thousands of times) less than that."]

In fact, our state air quality permits were stripped of their protective requirement to analyze worst-case-scenario accidents by Andrus in 1993. I still have the transcripts from my appeal, which went to the Department of Health and Welfare board, where only a local banker was willing to defend Idaho. Andrus then mandated that the accident analysis requirement be deleted from the state air quality permits. So I doubt Andrus' sincerity now, but no doubt Idaho is too great to evacuate.

Here are three laws our legislators could pass now to protect Idaho:

( Reinstate the requirement for accident analysis into our state air quality permits. Deny permits that could exceed the legal annual limit of 10 millirem.

( Adopt the nuclear waste law that protects Oregon and California. They simply require new nuclear projects to have a certified waste dump with room for that project's waste. We keep inviting in more waste and more deadly experimental projects, including plans for a full-scale commercial experimental nuclear power plant.

( Go back to court to demand the full removal of "all" 35 acres of billions of scattered plutonium particles. Why did our politicians say "no" to the $13 billion in Idaho jobs that would keep the promise that "all means all"? Less than 10 percent of the buried plutonium is being removed, while we open the first of acres of new plutonium particle dumps permitted in Idaho.

Peter Rickards is a resident of Twin Falls.

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