Author: Staff Writer, KIFI

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Governor Brad Little have signed a new agreement outlining how the federal agency will resolve breaches of the 1995 Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Settlement Agreement.  It also provides a path forward to resume research on commercial spent nuclear fuel at INL. 

The agreement only allows commercial spent nuclear fuel to be sent to INL in research quantities.  It does not allow DOE to bring any other type of fuel to Idaho for storage purposes.  Any commercial fuel brought to INL is subject to the original agreement, which requires all spent nuclear fuel to be shipped out of Idaho by 2035. The cap on all DOE nuclear waste in Idaho under the 1995 agreement remains in place.

According to the Governor's office, breaches of 1995 agreement began in 2012 when DOE failed to meet a commitment for treating sodium bearing liquid high level waste at INL.  DOE then fell behind on shipments of transuranic waste from INL to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. As a result, it ultimately missed a 2018 deadline for moving all such waste out of the state.

The state of Idaho invoked its end of the 1995 agreement and blocked further shipments of spent nuclear fuel to INL.  That included small amounts of commercial spent nuclear fuel the DOE wanted to use for research purposes.

Under the new framework, INL will be given a one-time waiver to receive 25 commercial power spent nuclear fuel rods from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois.   Before that 100 pounds of heavy metal comes, though, DOE must begin treating sodium bearing liquid high level waste at INL by turning it into a safer, dry, solid state. Right now, that material is sitting in tanks directly above the Snake River Aquifer.  Work to treat it has been stalled by problems at the Integrated Waste Treatment Plant. 

"This agreement is a significant development in our ongoing efforts to remove legacy nuclear waste from our state while also supporting the essential research mission of INL as the lead national laboratory for nuclear energy research," Governor Little said. "I want to commend Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Senator Mike Crapo, Senator Jim Risch, Congressman Mike Simpson, Congressman Russ Fulcher, and everyone else who played a role in helping reach this agreement. I also want to recognize the role that former Governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus played in securing Idaho's one-of-a-kind agreement back in the 1990s."

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