January 31, 2001

Magazine wisecrack prompts INEEL to analyze snow

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - A tongue-in-cheek blurb in a national skiing magazine has upset Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory officials.

Porter Fox, a Powder magazine editor, wrote in a recent issue that INEEL radioactivity has made the Grand Tetons glow so bright that backcountry skiers do not need headlamps.

Fox is a former Jackson, Wyo., resident. The article largely describes the successful efforts of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free to block a proposed incinerator at the INEEL.

The report also spotlights the Jackson group's contention that range fires from this summer may have widely deposited radioactivity and that other sources of air pollution are not properly monitored.

"It was so hyperbolic that I have a hard time seeing where the criticism lies," said Erik Ringelberg, Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free's executive director, who was quoted in the story. "His audience is the extreme snowboarder and extreme skier. It's not a technical journal or a legal argument, and he wrote in a pretty wide-open way."

But INEEL officials take issue with Fox's facts and say they now plan to analyze snow from Grand Targhee Ski and Summer Resort in northwest Wyoming for radioactive elements.

Researcher Mike Abbott will head the project.

"I've been at this long enough to know if you don't have data, you get beat up," he said. "We're not worried about plutonium ... but if we can do it, and it doesn't cost taxpayers a lot of money, let's do it."

Nick Nichols with the INEEL's public affairs office called Fox's article baseless, irresponsible and potentially damaging to businesses that rely on winter visitors.

Nichols has written a letter to the editor of Powder magazine.