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A persistent waste issue

A guest opinion about the Department of Energy’s Two Proposed shipments of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, by Tami Thatcher.

The two proposed shipments of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) for research at the Idaho National Laboratory are small (0.1 metric tons) compared to 308 metric tons of SNF at INL. And small in comparison to the tons of commercial SNF that the LINE Commission was lobbying Idaho to accept back in 2012.

But no matter what Idaho Attorney General Wasden decides, the Idaho’s nuclear waste problems aren’t going away any time soon. And the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to let DOE off the RCRA hook with a $2 million fine should DOE pull the plug on IWTU before treating any of the liquid waste has not helped matters.

The LINE Commission accepts DOE lobbying via INL leaders and makes these spin masters voting members on the LINE Commission.

Masters of nuclear booster spin or “nuclear BS” know just what to leave out of their presentations and explanations.

They emphasize that the Idaho Settlement Agreement called for INL to be the “DOE Spent Fuel Lead Laboratory.” But they leave out the fact that this was defunded in 2009.

They call for a transshipment facility to be built if additional commercial SNF come to Idaho. But they leave out that one needs to be built to make SNF already at INL road ready or be able to repackage it if it has no place to go.

They give seismic hazard presentations, but leave out discussion of the important weak links in nuclear facility and aquifer protection.

They make Disneyland waste disposal assumptions to avoid discussing the usual waste burial. Most of the fuel from the two proposed shipments will be destructively examined creating air emissions or other waste.

They give bread box analogies when volume doesn’t characterize the toxicity or longevity of the hazard.

They tout INL cleanup. But they leave out discussion that the vast majority of what was buried will remain buried at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex.

The courts decided that for Yucca Mountain, analysis to an arbitrary 10,000 years was unacceptable—if peak radiation ingestion doses were afterward. Yet, RWMC cleanup is based on models that minimize the release for the first 10,000 years. Then they leave out mention of the rapidly escalating ingestion doses after 10,000 years.

The DOE kept its analysis of peak doses at RWMC carefully out of public view: 100 mrem/yr for hundreds of thousands of years unless the soil cap is maintained perfectly. That’s assuming no floods and geologic stability over millennia: in other words, a scientifically indefensible analysis.

They say other burial grounds at INL will have caps, but leave out that only RWMC will rely on soil cap performance to slow the migration of radionuclides headed for Thousand Springs for millennia.

Employees at IDEQ and at various DOE contractors know their job is at-risk if they give straight answers. It’s not in the DNA of Idaho Commerce Director or Idaho Falls Mayor to question the nuclear spin—or to wait for public comment to DOE’s supplement analysis for the two shipments to be addressed and published.

But it should concern all Idahoans who care about the aquifer that questioning the spin masters is basically left up to two former governors.

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