Magic Valley Times-News

Magic Valley Times-News

Reader's Comment

Peter Rickards

Don't look now, but Idaho has become a permanent nuclear dump for plutonium. Unfortunately, the plutonium sits over our water supply, in a flood zone, and the state has agreed to bury more plutonium. That's right, Gov. Kempthorne has agreed to open a new permanent plutonium particle dump, despite his recent claim that "Idaho never has been a federally designated waste repository and never will be as long as I am governor."

Kempthorne did persuade his friends in Washington to reconsider paying for a small retrieval demonstration. This will only delay the bad news for a short time until after the election. But the lingering plutonium that is their legacy under either scenario will remain radioactive for 240,000 years.

The governor, in his recent State of the State speech, at least made one honest statement of past promises to Idahoans. He stated, "It has been over 30 years since the federal government promised that plutonium-contaminated waste buried at the INEEL would be removed." That is also, falsely, what the ads for Kempthorne's "Get The Waste Out" team promised Idahoans.

Kempthorne demanded the feds "remove the buried waste" to great applause. The governor claims he will go to court and stop shipments of spent nuclear fuel if they don't remove the buried waste. Anybody want to bet?

The governor has already refused to go to court to challenge the 1997 federal decision to leave all the buried plutonium in Idaho! The state protested that decision at the draft hearing two years after the so-called "Get the Waste Out " deal. When the final decision for the New Mexico plutonium dump still left the buried plutonium in Idaho, Kempthorne refused to challenge it in court!

To be specific, Kempthorne knows Section G of the "Get the Waste Out " deal clearly says the buried waste is not included in any time schedule or penalty mentioned in the "deal." Unfortunately, the penalties for delaying the work on the buried waste simply come from the clean-up fund, as Idaho's "leaders" agreed to! There is no legal way to stop the shipments because of the buried waste, and the governor knows it. The Department of Energy agrees completely, stating "the buried waste is not covered by the deal."

In fact, only half of the above-ground plutonium waste is tied to a deadline that could stop some shipments into Idaho. Even the governor's claim about the buried plutonium only removes half the below-ground plutonium. That leaves a legacy of billions of cancer-causing plutonium over our water either way. When confronted on the decision to rebury plutonium in a new onsite dump, the state spokesman told the reporter, "It is being done to protect the aquifer." Get real, this is absurd.

So why is the governor claiming we will never be a permanent federal repository? There are ways to still stop this insanity, but that interferes with new nuclear experiments and reactors that will bury plutonium on site. That is the real deal.

Dr. Peter Rickards is a podiatrist in Twin Falls and former candidate for governor and U.S. Congress.

Both the Idaho State INEEL Oversight Program and the attorney general's office declined an offer from The Times-News to write an opposing piece to Rickards' comments.

Copyright 2002, Magic Valley Newspapers