Idaho State Journal

Idaho State Journal

Our View

INEEL's future is bright, full of challenges

Sunday, December 24, 2000

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory faces important challenges in coming months, and site officials appear optimistic those challenges will be met.

We hope to see significant progress made in two important areas: cleanup and mitigation of environmental degradations; and consolidation of the site as a leading research and development laboratory.

Laboratory director Bill Shipp, who works for Bechtel BBWI, the company contracted with by the Department of Energy to run the site, says there is every reason to believe that progress will be forthcoming. For instance:

n He says that all the spent fuel and reactor debris from the Three-mile Island nuclear plant will be placed into dry storage by June 2001 - one of the state-mandated deadlines in the site's overall efforts to remove hazardous waste from Idaho by 2018. The fuel and debris are currently stored under water at the site. Shipp acknowledged last week that meeting the deadline would be difficult, but put the chances at "better than 50/50."

n By the end of 2002, the site is scheduled to remove 3,100 cubic meters of transuranic waste - material that has come in contact with other radioactive material at Colorado's Rocky Flats weapons plant. That deadline, too, will be tight, Shipp said, but he's confident it will be met.

Additionally, we're pleased that Shipp is cognizant of the site's economic value to eastern Idaho. The INEEL is easily the most economically important employer in the region.

It's easy to forget that the INEEL is one of only nine national laboratories in the United States. It's a vital national resource and one of two labs with the capability to continue atomic research while pursuing other experimental avenues. This, we firmly believe, gives the INEEL a leg up in its efforts to remain a long-time economic asset for our region.

Along those lines, Bechtel has forged ahead with its relationships with colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest, including Idaho State University. And it is expanding its horizons outside of the nuclear arena and devoting more resources to a number of environmental issues facing the region and the nation.

INEEL officials should remember that while the research and development operations they are involved in count most importantly in the long-term viability of the site, much of their political and popular support will hinge on the effectiveness of their cleanup program.

We feel good about INEEL's future, and we encourage Shipp, other Bechtel officials and DOE officials to do their best to ensure that nuclear waste is dealt with as scheduled.