Response to Statesman w/ Blue Ribbon Commission Comments

Sunday’s Idaho Statesman “Our View” editorial indicated that another debate is brewing on Idaho becoming a nuclear waste storage facility because “some Idahoans, particularly those in eastern Idaho” are advocating for a storage facility to be located in Idaho. The editorial also asks “Should Idaho be the solution to the federal government’s problem?” 

The answer to that question is an absolute “yes!” However, to clarify, eastern Idaho community leaders are not advocating that Idaho provide a storage facility as a way to solve the problem. Instead, we are advocating for research, development and demonstration (RD&D) activities that will ultimately provide answers to how to safely manage nuclear waste and spent fuel for the nation. In turn, that will provide a path to get the material out of Idaho, a goal overwhelmingly supported by Idahoans across the state. 

The discussion is a result of the recent draft report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and its recommendations related to nuclear waste and spent fuel management. A group of eastern Idaho community leaders representing the communities from Rexburg to Pocatello, Idaho Falls to Arco organized to provide comments to the Commission, especially to support the RD&D recommendations and advocate for locating them in Idaho (formal comment to the Commission is attached).

The Commission did make some recommendations related to interim storage among others. However, our group of eastern Idaho community leaders is addressing the Commission’s recommendations related specifically to nuclear RD&D. 

Our position is that eastern Idaho is the best location for these RD&D activities because of the substantial investment over the past 60 years in nuclear infrastructure, capabilities and workforce that U.S. taxpayers have already made in eastern Idaho. Eastern Idaho is home to the nation’s lead nuclear laboratory along with numerous nuclear and related industries, educational institutions, successful waste management programs and an experienced workforce.  Creating the capabilities elsewhere in the country does not make sense under normal circumstances, let alone in times of tight funding and federal budget reductions.

The nuclear RD&D industry in Idaho provides approximately $1 billion dollars into the Idaho economy every year, spanning from INL and Idaho State University in eastern Idaho to Boise State University in western Idaho to University of Idaho in northern Idaho. Supporting nuclear RD&D in Idaho makes sense for the entire state.

Furthermore, with its internationally recognized nuclear expertise, eastern Idaho is positioned to provide the scientific leadership to allow the country to have confidence in nuclear waste storage and long-term solutions. This addresses a national need, but more important locally, also addresses Idaho’s need to get our inventory of used nuclear fuel out of the State.

Eastern Idaho community leaders support operating and expanding stable, long-term RD&D programs in Idaho!

To view the comment submitted by the eastern Idaho community leaders to the Blue Ribbon Commission go to PST Resources (see "Idaho Comments") or view them below. The Boise State University College of Business and Economics “INL Impacts Study” can be viewed at the Boise State University website.

Signed by Lane Allgood representing a committee of Eastern Idaho Community Leaders including elected officials and representatives from Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Blackfoot, Pocatello, Chubbuck,

BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION COMMENTS

My name is Jackie Flowers. I am the manager of Idaho Falls Power, and current President of the Partnership for Science and Technology; I represent a group of community leaders from across Eastern Idaho, including the cities of Blackfoot, Chubbuck, Pocatello, Rexburg, and Idaho Falls. 

The communities of Eastern Idaho generally support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission. More specifically, we commend your efforts to develop a new national strategy for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the recommendations for seven key elements of a new strategy.

The report emphasizes the need for expertise tying directly to capabilities and infrastructure already present in our nuclear-friendly communities in Eastern Idaho. The people in our communities embrace nuclear energy as a critical part of the U.S. solution to energy independence and welcome being a part of the recommendations outlined in this report. 

Eastern Idaho is home to the nation’s lead nuclear laboratory as well as many nuclear and related industries, educational institutions, and waste management programs. We are also home to an educated, skilled and experienced labor force ready to go to work, particularly in the areas of advanced energy design, nuclear fuel research and development, and used fuel storage technology and research.

The list of related resources in eastern Idaho is impressive and includes:

The Idaho National Laboratory – The Nation’s Lead Nuclear Laboratory. The Laboratory has distinctive research facilities, equipment and people found nowhere else in the world; a provenrecord of meeting milestones and safely storing and disposing nuclear materials and waste; more than 60 years of provenreactor development capability spanning decades of investment; and nuclear research campuses including:

  • The Advanced Test Reactor Complex, the nation’s premier resource for fuels and materials irradiation testing, nuclear safety research and nuclear isotope production;
  • The Materials and Fuels Complex, which is the center of DOE’s advanced nuclear fuel development initiatives and post-irradiation examination capabilities;
  • The Research and Education Campus, which serves as the front door to the Laboratory and the center of the Laboratory's computing facilities, with a variety of research, administrative, educational and technical support facilities.
  • Plus 20 different laboratories, hot cells, and assembly facilities. 

Center for Advanced Energy Studies or ”CAES” – a partnership between the Idaho National Laboratory and the State of Idaho through its three public research universities: the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Boise State University. The CAES mission is two-fold: 1) Conduct cutting-edge research to address the country’s energy challenges, with emphasis on nuclear power; 2) help educate the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers.

Other Education Institutions – include Brigham Young University-Idaho, Eastern Idaho Technology College, and the Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC).

Nuclear Industries – Eastern Idaho is home to more than 20 businesses currently involved in the nuclear power industry. Local businesses support all aspects of the nuclear industry, from engineering and design to equipment fabrication to operations. 

Nuclear Energy Workforce – The Idaho National Laboratory recognized early on the need to build the nuclear energy workforce and educate the next generation of nuclear technicians, scientists, engineers and professionals. It has built robust education programs to keep this pipeline of workers filled.

INL also promotes initiatives designed to spark students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math in elementary school, keep them engaged through junior high and high school, support two-year, four-year and advanced degree programs for them to enroll in and provide them with meaningful internship opportunities.

INL is:

  • A founding member of the Idaho STEM initiative or i-STEM, a statewide effort to improve STEM education in Idaho’s K-12 schools.
  • A partner in the Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC), a two-year degree program that trains technicians and operators to work in the nuclear industry and other energy fields.
  • A partner in the Center for Advanced Energy Studies as outlined above.

Our Eastern Idaho communities are preparing formal comments that will be submitted to the Blue Ribbon Commission by the October 31 deadline. The commission also will likely hear directly from many of the firms mentioned who will share more detailed comments on the draft report.

I stand before you representing almost 300,000 people who want you to know we are open for business. We want to partner with you to aggressively develop solutions that bring the U.S. closer to energy independence.

Thank you for the opportunity, and we look forward to continued interactions.

Posted on September 27, 2011 .