Plutonium Meetings Heat Up; Boise's Turn on Thursday 

Looking for the most intense show this side of reality TV? Check out the Department of Energy public meeting this Thursday about plutonium production at the Idaho National Laboratory. Recent meetings on the same topic in Jackson, Wyoming, and Ketchum were reportedly quite rowdy affairs rife with booing, shouting and folks getting downright physical.

"[The DOE] were literally wrestling the microphone out of the hands of one of the board members of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free," recalled Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the Snake River Alliance of the Jackson meeting. The Alliance, like KYNF, worked with numerous organizations to pack the meetings with speakers opposed to the proposed INL expansion. Apparently it worked-the Idaho Mountain Express noted only two of 32 speakers as being in support of the DOE. One of the two, former nuclear engineer Martin Huebner of Idaho Falls, was booed so heavily by the unruly Sun Valley audience that he reportedly flipped them off.

"We're getting a lot of good comments and a lot of good feedback," DOE spokesman Brad Bugger told BW. "There's a lot of concern out there, and the department is certainly hearing that." As for the microphone incident, Bugger explained, "We had 150 in Wyoming, so we asked people to please follow the guidelines of five minutes for representatives of organizations and three for individuals. So we turned the microphone off, or took the microphone away from them until they agreed to abide by the rules." If speakers go too long at the Boise meeting, though, Bugger promised that they would be given additional time after the other registered speakers.

The meetings are in response to a DOE proposal to produce up to 5 kilograms of plutonium-238 per year at the INL, to be used in batteries powering deep space satellites and classified security missions. Under current guidelines, the process of enriching the neptunium-237 into plutonium is split between Tennesse, New Mexico and Idaho. The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the plan describes the INL site as "highly secure," but the opposing groups like the SRA have cited security, pollution and worker safety all as major concerns.

The Boise meeting will take place this Thursday, July 28, in the Selway Room at the Red Lion Downtowner, 1800 Fairview Avenue, at 7 p.m. Anyone wishing to speak can sign up at the door-we suggest sticking to the time limits, though, you bunch of troublemakers. Visit www.boiseweekly.com for a link to the consolidation environmental impact statement. The public has until August 29 to comment on the plan.

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