Idaho State Journal

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 is built.
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 parks.
"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 than 2002.
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.

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