Gov. Cecil Andrus, proclaiming that the security of the free world is at stake, today partially lifted his ban on the shipment of nuclear waste into Idaho and will allow 12 boxcars of it from a Colorado nuclear plant.
Andrus will allow two boxcars of radioactive waste a month, for six months only, from the U.S. Energy Department's Rocky Flats nuclear plant near Denver to be stored at the federal Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls.
"I don't appreciate being put in this position by the incompetence of the DOE over the past 20 years," Andrus said. Keeping the ban in force, he said, "would have put ourselves in a national defense posture unacceptable to America and the rest of the free world."
He stressed that the state will accept only 12 boxcars of waste from Rocky Flats and that the ban will be reimposed Sept. 1.
Isolation Plant Delayed
Andrus imposed the ban last October when the Energy Department could not say when it would open the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., the federal government's proposed permanent repository for defense nuclear waste.
A separate permanent repository for commercial high-level radioactive waste is planned in Nevada.
The Rocky Flats site is expected to be filled to capacity between late March and May and would be shut down unless some of its waste is moved.
Rocky Flats produces plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, a key component of the nation's nuclear arsenal.
"In the interest of national security, it is essential that the Rocky Flats facility not be forced to close," Andrus said.
Hundreds of thousands of barrels of nuclear waste are stored at the Idaho facility; Andrus said, "12 more boxcars won't make much difference."
No More 'Generosity'
Energy Department officials told Andrus and Colorado Gov. Roy Romer Wednesday that the New Mexico dump is to be opened by October. If it is not, Andrus said, the department "need not look to Idaho for more generosity."
Romer said he anticipates moving two boxcars of atomic waste to Idaho immediately, Andrus said.