Being good is not good enough. Idaho deserves, and should demand, excellence in its public officials.
I suggested in my last column that Idaho voters worry more about jobs than ideology. I used the pending loss of over 400 jobs at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant as one example. But AMWTP is just one issue related to the Idaho National Laboratory and the Idaho Cleanup Project that our elected officials will face in the next four years. Others are the NuScale/UAMPS small modular reactor siting and construction, the ability of the INL to conduct research on spent nuclear fuel and dealing with reality when it comes to the 1995 Settlement Agreement.
The LINE Commission plays a vital role in the engagement of the public and state officials in issues critical to the laboratory. Lt. Gov. Brad Little has said that, if elected governor, he will maintain the commission. Little played an important role as co-chair of the commission. Presumably, the next lieutenant governor will too. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan’s views on the Laboratory are not shared on her campaign website. She embraces Idaho’s “homegrown clean energy” but fails to mention either hydropower or nuclear energy.
Shortly after the primary election, I questioned four candidates about their position on these issues, i.e., the candidates for lieutenant governor and for state representative in district 30A. The Lt. Governor race is important for the reasons noted above. The district 30A race is important because Idaho Falls is home to the INL.
I asked each candidate: “I would like to understand your position on the following issues that are extremely important to the economic future of Idaho: 1) Keeping the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant open and operating beyond its expected closure, thereby saving 400 – 700 high paying jobs in Idaho while saving money for Idaho and the nation’s taxpayers; 2) Supporting the UAMPS/NuScale plan to locate a small modular nuclear reactor at INL, thereby creating jobs in Idaho and a pathway to clean energy security for our state and nation; and 3) Supporting INL’s efforts to bring small quantities of commercial spent nuclear fuel into Idaho to conduct research, thereby safely extending the life of the current nuclear power fleet in the U.S. and around the world.”
Janice McGeachin, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, responded affirmatively to the questions and pointed to her support for INL as a state representative and her small business owner experience.
Kristin Collum, the Democratic candidate, also responded affirmatively but wanted time to become better informed before answering my questions in detail. She has reached out to the Laboratory to learn more about it and the issues it faces. Her qualifications include being a U.S. Army veteran plus education, training and experience in technical fields that require an analytical approach to decision making.
Perhaps the City Club could invite the candidates for lieutenant governor to speak to Eastern Idaho voters before the election.
Pat Tucker, the Democratic candidate for state representative in District 30A, expressed her support and pointed to her 26-year career with INL, including two years at AMWTP, and her strong support for expanding the mission of AMWTP to save over 400 jobs.
Gary Marshall, the Republican candidate, did not respond. His website notes a two-year stint at Test Area North.
The issues facing the INL and the Idaho Cleanup Project require knowledgeable and effective advocacy for the Laboratory. Brad Little, Kristen Collum and Pat Tucker are the best qualified to be effective advocates.