"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

On LINE and nuclear, con’t

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

(continued from last week)

There are plenty of other problems with the LINE Commission’s progress report and wish list. Candidly, it looks like the proverbial Christmas Tree with new baubles being added all the time. Congress used to concoct these when at the end of a session they would pass a catch-all appropriation bill to keep government running and add pork chop after pork chop.

The first question that cries for an answer is where is the money going to come from, whether federal or state funds, to pay for all these wish list items? At a minimum a budget impact or estimate ought to be attached to each item and potential sources of funding identified. Then, the list ought to be prioritized with the Commission’s view as to what is truly feasible. Keep in mind this is just in reference to items not dependent on amending the agreement.

Secondly, where INL boosters get the notion that the site can avoid the budget cuts coming for most every federal department and program is beyond me, but it sure appears some may be trying to set up the agreement as the cause for these inevitable cuts. That’s both disingenuous and deceptive.

Third, INL Site boosters in southeastern Idaho make much of the fact that a couple of counties in New Mexico have responded with an initial positive response to becoming the final repository for nuclear waste. The implication is that they could steal away much of the Lab’s work because they are being more cooperative with the Feds.

The fact is though no other state has given even a tentative yes and such a decision to being a permanent repository will not be a local only decision.

Likewise, much is made out of the six mayors sending a letter to the state and the LINE Commission saying Idaho ought to take a look at selling the state’s future for 30 pieces of silver just to see what all we might get. This writer would be much more impressed if these same six mayors could get together and agree on just one site for a southeastern Idaho regional airport and a way to fund its construction.

That would do much more for economic development in southeastern Idaho than trying to amend the Batt agreement in a Faustian bargain with a devil that has proven time and again it cannot be trusted.

Ever since Cecil Andrus in his first term as governor in the early 70’s saw the reinjection wells in use at the site, with laser-like intensity he has understood the threat to the vast Snake Plain Aquifer that underlies the site and the need to assure Idahoans that their environmental and economic future was being made secure from the kind of radioactive pollution whose half-life for some materials is measured in thousands if not millions of years.

There is no question that because of his and Batt’s resolute insistence that the aquifer be protected by removal of all waste above it by a time certain, much progress has been made at the site. Both governors as well as some of their successors have kept the pressure on to the point that the WIPP site in New Mexico is up and operating and taking most of Idaho ’s poorly stored and poorly packaged transuranic waste.

Other bench marks have been met and the only recent setback was failure to have met the deadline for removal and calcificaition of all the remaining liquid waste at the site. Regardless of good intentions the state should impose the penalties for this failure also.

The LINE Commission should have paid more attention to one of the briefings they received in October from one of Idaho DEQ’s hydrology experts¸ Gerry Winters, who presented a power point update on the state of ground water conditions at the INL.

While somewhat technical at times the bottom line was clear and was a factual validation of the tough stance Governors Andrus and Batt have taken with the DoE and the site while still enabling beneficial and economically sound projects to go forward.

Two of the slides contained graphs on radioactive particle concentrations: one was of Strontium -90 concentrations in ground water by the INTEC site; the other was tritium concentrations in US Geological monitoring wells 104 and 106 on the southern perimeter of the Site.

Both graphs not only showed concentrations well below safe drinking water standards but also a steady decline over the years.

It warrants the one-line sentence in the LINE Commission progress report on page 13, which reads “the risk to contamination of the aquifer continues to decline.”

Thank you, Governor Batt. Thank you Governor Andrus.

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