Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho.
In January, two former Idaho governors held a press conference
where they delivered strong words to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on his recent decision to reopen importation of spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.
Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus and Republican Gov. Phil Batt were upset that Otter would break Batt's 1995 landmark injunction against any more nuclear waste to come into Idaho.
Andrus said the decision to receive 50 spent nuclear rods—weighing in at nearly 37.5 tons—was made "in the dark of night."
"It's a travesty," Andrus said at the press conference on Jan. 15, raising his voice.
Nearly three months later, Otter has replied to the former governors in a news release.
"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me," he wrote.
"It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up under the terms of the agreement, including removal of ALL
(sic) materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the Lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards.
"It is clear the former governors see the Lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities."
Andrus and Batt fear the importation of more nuclear waste to the site will pose a risk for the Snake River Plain Aquifer directly under the repository site.
"If there was contamination in that water," Batt said in the press conference, "it would cause our potato industry to fold up. It would cause fish farms to fold up in Magic Valley. It would create all kind of problems with municipal water."
Andrus added that "it could gain $10 million in revenue, but that isn't one-tenth of 1 percent of what you're gambling against if any of that waste gets lose in the aquifer."
Andrus called this an attempt by Otter to turn Idaho into a new Yucca Mountain, referencing the controversial nuclear waste repository in Nevada that was closed in 2011 following widespread political opposition.
"I've been around a long time," Andrus said in January. "But I guess I'm going to have to live a bit longer because we're not going to put up with this."