Printed on: January 26, 2013

Group takes no stance on nuclear storage

By Christina Lords

BOISE -- Members of the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission made their recommendations Friday without taking a definitive stance on storing nuclear waste.

More time is needed to discuss options for both the transportation and storage of nuclear waste materials in Idaho, Commission Chairman Jeff Sayer said.

"What you're going to see us say (in the report) is the most extreme ideas are premature," Sayer said. "(Ideas) like actually becoming an interim storage location. That's not something we can just come out and recommend because the federal policy hasn't been established.

"That's the heart of why we need to have a continued conversation."

The commission will encourage Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to continue analyzing the information after the report is finalized, Sayer said.

The commission outlined six recommendations during its last public meeting before its final report is due to Otter on Thursday.

Those recommendations are:

Continue working cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Energy to address remaining environmental risks at INL site.

Exercise leadership as the U.S. formulates federal energy and nuclear waste management policies.

Capitalize on Idaho's nuclear technology competencies by supporting the growth of existing nuclear businesses and attract new nuclear businesses.

Invest in research infrastructure to enable INL and Idaho universities to successfully compete for U.S. and global research opportunities.

Develop and promote the Center for Advanced Energy Studies as a regional, national and global resource for energy research.

Strengthen and expand nuclear education and workforce training offerings.

The commission's report is meant to offer direction and establish policy guidelines on the future of nuclear energy and the Idaho National Laboratory in the state, Sayer said.

Commission members, who met at the Capitol Building, are expected to receive the final draft of the 80-page report early next week for final review.

It will be sent to Otter on Thursday.

More than 270 comments gathered by the commission during its public comment period also will be made available at that time.

The public deserves to know more about the commission's recommendations concerning long-term storage facilities in Idaho, Snake River Alliance Executive Director Liz Woodruff said.

"After today, we have less clarity on what the final report is going to look like because what it sounds like is there will be sub-recommendations that come under those (six) broad categories," she said. "While we had some relief when we saw that lifting the ban on commercial radioactive waste wasn't in those six, I would say that we are concerned that that element will still be in the final report."

INL Director John Grossenbacher agreed with other commissioners that more time and feedback is necessary beyond the final report to bring its work full circle.

"(These issues) neither began nor ended with the LINE Commission," he said. "We'd be remiss to not give (Otter) some ideas on how to continue to function. It may be the LINE Commission. It may be another mechanism."

The commission released its preliminary report in December. In it, the commission suggested the state look into a pilot interim storage facility, which could bring jobs and investments to Idaho.

That would require state officials and residents to re-evaluate the 1995 Settlement Agreement. That agreement allowed for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in Idaho over a 40-year period, but requires that all spent nuclear fuel be removed from the state no later than 2035.

That's something Woodruff said the commission shouldn't even consider.

"It would be wise of us to stay with the (agreement) that took so many decades to establish rather than meddle with that process," Woodruff said. "We have had that conversation, and there is not clarity on a federal level to what the (storage) table looks like. For Idaho to keep insisting on sitting at a table that doesn't exist yet doesn't seem wise; it seems irresponsible."

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Coming Sunday:

Post Register reporter Alex Stuckey takes a closer look at how nuclear waste is handled, studied -- and sometimes stored – at the Department of Energy's desert site near Idaho Falls.