Groups Fight Radioactive Waste Incinerator

POCATELLO, ID -- A plan to incinerate radioactive and hazardous waste at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) received approval from the DOE earlier this year. The project will cost at least $1 billion.

The waste treatment machine would be operated by the U.S. subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels, Ltd. The factory is set to handle about 2.3 million cubic feet of radioactive waste stored at INEEL. The plutonium ash at INEEL is destined for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Incineration is inherently unsafe and poses serious short- and long-term environmental and public health risks. While incineration burns up some hazardous organic substances, it releases and disperses heavy metals and radionuclides. Michael Bonkowski, DOE's project manager, acknowledged that trace quantities of plutonium will escape into the atmosphere, but "below national emission limits because of adequate filtration."

Those who work at the site or live downwind will be hardest hit. Crops and livestock can accumulate toxins and heavy metals. Environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists from surrounding towns, cities and states are organizing to stop the plan. Yellowstone, Sawtooth Wilderness Area, Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness, numerous Indian reservations, Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument are among the many parks and reserves located within 100 miles of INEEL.

Downwinders have raised over $500,000 and have filed a lawsuit to stop this nuclear waste incinerator.

*-- The Times-News Online, Magic Valley, ID, Dec. 4, 1997; Tim Jackson in the Idaho State Journal, Pocatello.