The Idaho National Engineering Laboratory is among 16 nuclear weapons facilities in the nation that pose a massive radioactive contamination threat, according to a new study entitled "Deadly Defense."
The report, prepared by the New York City-based Radioactive Waste Campaign, was unveiled Tuesday in Boise by the Snake River Alliance. The environmental group used the opportunity to call for a stop to unsafe dumping of radioactive wastes and other practices at the INEL.The 170-page report, released nationally at a news conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, said more than 7 million cubic feet of radioactive waste is stored at the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls.
"In the name of national security we are poisoning ourselves," said Fritz Bjornsen, a Snake River Alliance board member.
Radioactivity released into the air and the Snake River Plain Aquifer below the INEL poses potential threats to public health, said Bjornsen.
"There is no reason to believe that the aquifer or the surrounding community is safe from the waste that is being stored there," he said. "Everybody downstream is potentially at risk."
He said the INEL should stop its waste-generating nuclear weapons operations, such as reprocessing nuclear submarine fuels, and should stop taking wastes, such as those from the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, for temporary storage.
INEL spokeswoman Penny Phelps said INEL officials were unable to comment on the report or on Bjornsen's statements because they had not seen the study.
"Deadly Defense," which was two years in the making by nine researchers, said the Department of Energy had grossly mismanaged the 16 plants, allowing radioactivity to leak into the soil, water and air.