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Three groups of truths

carlson CHRIS


The counter-attack by the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce boosters of the Idaho National Lab, orchestrated by the Department of Energy, against former Idaho governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus for blowing the whistle on current Governor Butch Otter’s attempt to give a waiver from the 1995 Batt Agreement on the importation of two shipments of commercial spent fuel rods for research purposes is missing some key points.

For those still trying to understand objectively what this is all about, there are three phrases they should keep uppermost in mind. Phrase one comes from the Tom Cruise movie a few years back, A Few Good Men. Cruise plays a young Navy JAG officer and he is grilling on the witness stand in a trial a tough Marine colonel played by Jack Nicholson.

At a key moment he challenges the colonel to tell the truth. Nicholson rears back and with the meanest demeanor of total disdain snarls back at Cruise, “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Phrase one.

Phrase two is one of the best statements ever uttered by former President Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify!

Phrase three is a political truism: Politics most often is about dealing with perceptions which are based on emotions which often trump facts.

Critics of Andrus and Batt are busy engaging in raising “straw dog” arguments that play with words and semantics, all designed to divert attention from the real issues. Or, they’ll find one nit that may be incorrect and immediately conclude that invalidates their entire thesis.

So one can read that spent fuel rods are not waste and that research on the commercial spent fuel rods is all part of an expanding research role for the site that will generate a couple hundred million dollars over ten years, and, oh yes, more jobs And don’t those former governors know that the spent rods are solid materials, so they can’t possibly migrate to the aquifer and pollute it?

Here are some truths that the INL booster types cannot handle:

1) Phil Batt authored the 1995 DoE/Navy/Idaho Agreement in which he skillfully brought to a successful to conclusion an effort begun by Govenor Andrus.. They know what it says and what it means far better than than the current overnor, Butch Otter.

2) Absent Yucca Mountain there is no national repository for radioactive material. Whether one calls it research material or waste, it’s radioactive and once here odds are it will be here for a long, long time.

3) Andrus and Batt care far more about the future well-being of the site than all the Idaho Falls INL boosters put together, including Governor Otter, Congressman Mike Simpson, Senator Mike Crapo and State Senator Bart Davis. Why? Because they see far over the horizon better than the booster types and what they see is that the more the site becomes the de facto repository the less there will be a research mission.

Here are some truths under the second phrase:

1) You can trust Andrus and Batt to care far more about the future of Idaho than you can the Department of Energy, or an indifferent Governor Otter.

2) The Department of Energy has repeatedly, going back fifty years, failed to meet deadlines, at times deliberately misled, and in general has an abysmal record with regard to keeping its word. Why would any sane person keep positing trust or give any credence to anything they say? With them the end justifies the means.

3) Verification mandates that the state keep a wary eye on the management at INL for past history is revealing. Remember a few years back when DoE tried to modify the definition of “all” in the Batt agreement, as in the requirement that the federal government had to remove ALL radioactive material from above the aquifer by 2035? Much to DoE’s chagrin a Federal District judge ruled “All” means ALL.

Despite this Federal District Judge’s ruling there are credible reports that the Citizenas Oversight Committee is currently hotly debating a DoE desire to forego having to dig up and remove ground at the INTEC site and the ATR complex. There are additional reports that Idaho DEQ may have already signed off on this newest DoE effort to subvert the Batt Agreement.

Finally, some truths under phrase three:

1) Some trace amounts of carcinogenic materials may have already touched the aquifer,

2) The former governors are dead-on correct when they point out how vulnerable the “downstream” ag industry is to a potential charge that potatoes, alfalfa and other crops which draw water from the Snake River and the aquifer could someday be contaminated by larger amounts of radioactive material. Even the misperception of that could kill frmers in the Magic Valley.

3) There’s a growing perception in the rest of Idaho that the INL and its largely southeast Idaho boosters don’t give a damn about the rest of the state, as long as they get the reward and someone else takes all the risk.

The question remains on the table: Can the critics of Governors Batt and Andrus really handle the truth?

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