Maintaining a Vibrant INL
By Congressman Mike Simpson
Washington, March 18, 2015
“In the world of politics, some of the toughest moments are when you find yourself disagreeing with those you consider friends.
“That has never been truer for me than in my current difference of opinion with former Governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus. They are opposing two INL shipments containing just 200 pounds of commercial nuclear fuel because of a delay related to the 1995 Settlement Agreement. The shipments represent the beginning of a research project slated to bring tens of millions of dollars to Idaho.
“My difference of opinion with the two former Governors is NOT over their desire to protect Idaho’s environment or the integrity of the Agreement. Instead, it’s over their apparent desire to return to an ugly, contentious, and unproductive era of fighting with the DOE instead of maintaining a more constructive and beneficial partnership.
“Governors Batt and Andrus were not only correct, but courageous, in taking the federal government to task in the 1990’s over long-running failures to remediate INL after decades of secrecy and environmental contamination. Their fight with DOE not only produced an agreement for which we are all grateful today, it actually facilitated the eventual revitalization of the lab and its research mission in Eastern Idaho.
“Early in my Congressional service, the Bush Administration proposed cleaning up and “closing down” INL. Idahoans were rightfully outraged and a multi-year, multi-pronged effort to “save the lab” began in earnest.
“The result of that effort, after years of hard work and relationship mending, included not only the accelerated cleanup of nuclear contamination, but unprecedented new research opportunities. A decade later, INL is approaching $1 billion a year in business volume and cleanup has progressed in ways hard to imagine back in 1995. New buildings have sprung up across INL and its scientists have gone from working in old garages to doing research in world class facilities.
“It's important to note that INL isn’t just a world leader in nuclear energy research. Its internationally-significant missions include national and homeland security, renewable and alternative energy, grid protection, cutting edge chemistry, securing nuclear materials across the globe, and much, much more. The lab employs thousands of Idahoans directly and is responsible indirectly for the careers of tens of thousands more. And it’s a strong partner with our state’s universities – a partnership that benefits all Idahoans.
“Most frustrating for me, when thinking about the recent statements of the former Governors, is that none of this would have been possible without their work and courage—yet all of it is potentially at risk if they continue to insist on moving backward.
“You see, there is no such thing as a lead nuclear energy research laboratory that can’t access nuclear materials on which to do its research. The two former Governors know this – and yet their words suggest they haven’t taken the time or effort to understand what is truly going on at INL.
“With that in mind, I invite them to spend some time at INL – they haven’t been there in years. I want them to see the impressive facilities where this research is being done. I want them to meet the scientists who conduct this important research. I want them to view the safeguards in place to ensure the work is done safely and with absolutely no risk to the environment, or our life-sustaining aquifer.
“I encourage them to embrace the new, productive, collaborative, and exciting relationship the State of Idaho has built with the Department of Energy over the last decade. And I want them to fully appreciate their own essential role in making it all possible.”