WIPP shipment

A semitrailer loaded with radioactive waste goes past EBR1 after leaving the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project in 2017.

Cybersecurity issues dominated the meeting of the state’s nuclear energy stakeholder committee held Wednesday morning.

The Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission, which advises Gov. Brad Little on state policies related to the laboratory, spoke largely about local and federal cybersecurity projects during its five-hour meeting. Discussion topics included the lab’s Cybercore Integration Center, relationships between the lab and national security efforts, and the future of 5G network research.

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, told the commission that he thought it was likely the lab would soon be budgeting more for its cybersecurity programs than its nuclear ones. He suggested the commission look into creating a subcommittee or secondary committee that would focus solely on the cybersecurity aspect of the lab’s work.

“It seems to me that the cybersecurity mission that’s developing at INL is different. It certainly dovetails with the nuclear work, but I think it would be beneficial if you had an organization within the LINE commission that recognizes it,” Risch said.

One of the growing cybersecurity areas for the lab will come in the continued expansion of 5G research and security implementation; 5G is an emerging cellular network. Dan Elmore, executive director of the INL Wireless Security Institute, said the site had used its existing signal testing ranges to research 5G networks over the last year. The first meeting of an external advisory committee for wireless security was held last week.

Elmore cited a draft version of the “National Strategy to Secure 5G Implementation Plan” issued last week by the Department of Commerce, which emphasized the need to secure the technology and infrastructure of the upcoming network.

“Our capabilities and our focus line up with many of those recommendations. We have been in the wireless security business at INL for almost 20 years,” Elmore said.

Elmore and representatives from Idaho colleges on the LINE Commission said there was a high demand for workers and college graduates from multiple engineering and computer science disciplines to implement the new network over the next few years.

On the nuclear side of the discussions Wednesday, Idaho National Lab is on track to complete one major cleanup effort by the end of the year. Idaho Cleanup Project Manager Connie Flohr said that INL should finish treating and shipping transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Power Plant in New Mexico around the end of 2021. Transuranic waste includes a wide variety of materials — from sludge to clothing to dirt — that has been contaminated with elements with a higher atomic number than uranium, principally plutonium. Most of that waste was originally buried in pits and trenches around a 97-acre dump in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Flohr said the site had about 5,700 cubic meters of radioactive material remaining to ship, of which only 500 cubic meters still need to be fully treated.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.