Incinerator opponents warn farmers of emissions
Group distributes warnings at Potato School
By Chris Hunt and Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writers
POCATELLO - An organization opposing the construction of a radioactive
waste incinerator at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental
Laboratory took aim at the state's potato industry Thursday,
warning farmers of possible dire consequences if the incinerator
In a full-page ad in Thursday's Idaho State Journal, the environmental
organization Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free reported "that
emissions, spills and accidents could change the future of Idaho's
potato crop overnight." The ad coincided with the University
of Idaho's Potato School, an agricultural convention held in
Pocatello Wednesday and Thursday. In addition to buying the ad,
which cost between $1,500 and $2,000, the organization purchased
400 papers and delivered them to the conference held on the campus
of Idaho State University.
The advertisement points out that the planned incinerator would
have a 30-year permit and that it could be emitting radioactive
pollutants into the air over eastern Idaho during that time.
The organization, headed by renowned attorney Gerry Spence, has
claimed in the past the incinerator would release harmful toxins
into the air, and that prevailing winds would blow the pollutants
over the Tetons to settle in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national
"Would you, as a farmer, rather put the future of your
land, your crops and your children's future in the hands of INEEL
for the next 30 years, or would you rather take this issue into
your own hands right now and join us in defeating this critical
impending threat?" the advertisement reads.
Allan Jines, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, said
Thursday that tests have been conducted for 30 years to insure
the safety of nuclear waste incinerators.
He said DOE has used computer simulations that take into account
complex wind patterns in the area, and that toxic discharges
would be "well below" federal health regulations.
In addition, monitors will be installed to measure the amounts
of emissions at the discharge pipes. The state of Idaho will
also be able to view a constant, real-time display showing exact
output of emissions. If a problem were to occur, DOE and INEEL
officials said, the incinerator would automatically shut down.
According to Berte Hirschfield, president of Keep Yellowstone
Nuclear Free, which is based in Jackson, Wyo., an effort is under
way to unite concerned citizens in both Idaho and Wyoming in
opposition to the incinerator's construction, which is set to
begin in March. Construction could be delayed until the necessary
permits are issued by the state of Idaho.
"We really want to raise the level of awareness,"
Hirschfield said. "We believe we're all in this together.
We're not saying, 'Put it in somebody else's back yard.' We're
concerned about what to do with the waste. We're saying we need
to stop the construction of the incinerator before it comes back
to haunt us with sickness and even death."
Much of the waste INEEL would incinerate was shipped from the
Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. Boxes and barrels
containing cleanup sludge, contaminated gloves, clothing and
tools were literally dumped in the ground at INEEL from 1954
to 1970. It remains underground, and tests are under way to explore
what's there and how best to treat it.
After 1970, INEEL began storing that same waste above ground,
in specially equipped buildings.
According to a 1999 settlement with Idaho, DOE is required to
ship the above-ground waste - about 65,000 cubic meters of it
- to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M. A significant
portion of that waste is due to be treated and shipped no later
But without an incinerator to rid the waste of PCB contaminants
and organic waste, WIPP won't accept it.
A public meeting to discuss the proposed waste incinerator will
be conducted Tuesday, at 7 p.m., at the Jackson Hole Middle School,
1230 South Park Loop Road.