Gov. Cecil Andrus has set in motion a process that could lead to at least tacit congressional endorsement of his recent refusal to accept high-level radioactive waste at a federal facility in Idaho.
And the governor quickly brushed aside the chairman of the Idaho Republican Party's suggestion that he "cool his rhetoric" on the issue. Andrus last week called U.S. Department of Energy officials "lying so-and-sos" and this week accused them of misleading the public over plans for spent fuel it wants to ship from a mothballed Colorado nuclear reactor.Andrus announced Thursday that he notified House Speaker Thomas Foley and Senate President Pro Tem Robert Byrd by letter that he had rejected the Energy Department's delivery of waste from the Fort St. Vrain reactor to the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.
Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the governor's rejection of the waste becomes final unless Congress passes a resolution overturning it within 90 days.
Andrus had 60 days to submit his "notice of disapproval" to Congress after Energy Secretary James Watkins' Feb. 7 letter notifying him of the agency's plans to ship waste to the INEL from the Fort St. Vrain reactor.
"Unfortunately, the DOE has failed to meet its legal obligations in several respects with regard to the storage of this material in Idaho," Andrus said in his letter. "Moreover, I do not believe it is in the national interest or in the interests of the people of the state of Idaho, for this storage to occur at INEL."
Public Service Co. of Colorado, a Denver-based utility, wants the waste shipped to Idaho under an agreement with the Department of Energy to handle spent fuel from the commercial reactor in Platteville, Colo.
But Andrus refused last week, and after being sued by Public Service in U.S. District Court in Boise to force acceptance of the waste, the governor filed a complaint of his own in federal appellate court. It charged that the Energy Department failed to comply with environment requirements before deciding to ship material to the INEL.
Andrus expanded on that in his letter to Foley and Byrd, listing five reasons why he decided to reject the Fort St. Vrain waste, which the Department of Energy said this week it plans to use for research on advanced designs for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. The agency specifically cited commercial applications, but similar technology is used in the proposed New Production Reactor that would produce tritium for use in nuclear bombs.