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Report: Idaho Should Take Lead in Nuclear Research

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Chasing The Atoms - Rods

ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News Rods that were recently removed from the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory glow in water on Aug. 17, 2010.

BOISE • After statewide meetings and months of research, a committee tasked with studying Idaho’s nuclear industry has finalized its report.

On Wednesday, the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission presented its findings and recommendations to House and Senate environment committees. The message: Idaho should take a leadership role in nuclear research and energy development.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter put together the commission last year to study Idaho’s nuclear future and make recommendations on Idaho’s path forward on nuclear research

Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, introduced the commission’s report, which includes the history of Idaho’s nuclear industry, the commission’s findings, and recommendations.

The biggest priority is protecting the environment, Sayer said. With that in mind, Idaho needs to realize that Idaho Falls isn’t the only area affected by INL’s activities.

“It’s not just about eastern Idaho. It’s about Magic Valley. It’s about tribal lands,” Sayer said. Those protections are non-negotiable, the report says.

The committee pointed to once-common waste disposal practices, such as injecting waste solids into the ground — a disposal method that contaminated the aquifer.

Vice Admiral John Grossenbacher, director of the Idaho National Lab, pointed out that practices have changed, and that the problems caused by harmful practices are almost solved.

So how do we know what we’re doing today is right?

“We have to trust, but verify,” he said. That means further research and continuing study on the best practices for handling nuclear waste.

Here are the six general recommendations:

• Continue to work cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Energy and other impacted states to address remaining environmental risks and continue cleanup at the INL site.

• Exercise leadership as the U.S. government formulates federal energy and nuclear waste management policies.

• Capitalize on Idaho’s nuclear technology competencies by supporting the growth of existing nuclear businesses, the corresponding infrastructure, and the attraction of new nuclear businesses.

• Invest in infrastructure to enable the INL and Idaho universities to successfully compete for U.S. and global research opportunities.

• Develop and promote the Center for Advanced Energy Studies as a regional, national and global resource for nuclear energy research.

• Strengthen and expand nuclear education and workforce training offerings.

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