Former Gov. Phil Batt said Friday that, while he does not agree with the changes to 1995 Settlement Agreement contained in the supplemental agreement signed Wednesday, he accepts them and thinks Gov. Brad Little will “make this a positive step for Idaho.”
Batt, a Republican, was governor when the landmark agreement between Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy setting deadlines for nuclear waste removal was first signed. In the years since he and former Gov. Cecil Andrus, the Democrat who preceded Batt and had started work on the agreement, have pushed back against proposals to change it. Andrus died in 2017.
Under the deal Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden signed Wednesday, Idaho National Laboratory would get a one-time waiver to receive 25 commercial power spent nuclear fuel rods, weighing about 100 pounds in total, from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois. However, before this could happen, DOE would have to prove its ability to treat the 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste being stored at DOE’s desert site west of Idaho Falls in tanks above the East Snake Plain Aquifer by successfully producing one full canister of dry treated waste. After years of delay, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit started to hold test runs on simulant there in fall 2018.
DOE also would have to agree that at least 55 percent of all future transuranic waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., come from Idaho; to remove at least 300 pounds of plutonium, uranium or enriched uranium from the state by the end of 2021; and to treat at least 165 pounds of sodium-bonded EBR II driver fuel pins into material for high assay low enriched uranium fuel production each year until all pins have been treated, no later than the end of 2028. If waste treatment is ongoing and DOE is not in breach of the settlement agreement, the department would be able to bring more research quantities of spent nuclear fuel into the state after producing 100 canisters of dry treated waste.
Batt’s full statement is below:
“When I was Governor I signed an agreement between the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the State of Idaho. The Idaho National Laboratory was limited in the contract to specific qualification and duties listed on the current document.
"I have consistently opposed efforts to modify the pact, because it states INL cannot start on new ventures unless all major provisions and protections to the state have been completed. Several major improvements have not been fulfilled.
"Governor Little and Attorney General Wasden have agreed to some changes in the document. Although I did not agree with the changes, nevertheless, I accept them to be Idaho’s new agreement with INL.
"I have the utmost faith in our Governor and will support him fully. At my age, 92 years old, I will do what I can to help him carry out the new contract. This agreement, now 20 years old, had served us well and resulted in a much better and cleaner site. It is an important part of Idaho. I wish the INL continued success and I know Governor Little will make this a positive step for Idaho.”