Friday, March 6, 2015

Gov. Otter Responds to Former Governors on INL Nuclear Waste Importation

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 9:57 AM

Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) addressed a room full of reporters on Jan. 15, expressing opposition to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho.
In January, two former Idaho governors held a press conference where they delivered strong words to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on his recent decision to reopen importation of spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.

Former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus and Republican Gov. Phil Batt were upset that Otter would break Batt's 1995 landmark injunction against any more nuclear waste to come into Idaho.

Andrus said the decision to receive 50 spent nuclear rods—weighing in at nearly 37.5 tons—was made "in the dark of night." 

"It's a travesty," Andrus said at the press conference on Jan. 15, raising his voice.

Nearly three months later, Otter has replied to the former governors in a news release. 

"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me," he wrote.

It continues:

"It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation. Clean up under the terms of the agreement, including removal of ALL (sic) materials by 2035, remains our first priority, but it is not our only priority. Continuing the valuable research at the Lab with its world-class facilities and people is the future and one we should all work towards.

"It is clear the former governors see the Lab as a liability, while I see its possibilities."

Andrus and Batt fear the importation of more nuclear waste to the site will pose a risk for the Snake River Plain Aquifer directly under the repository site. 

"If there was contamination in that water," Batt said in the press conference, "it would cause our potato industry to fold up. It would cause fish farms to fold up in Magic Valley. It would create all kind of problems with municipal water."

Andrus added that "it could gain $10 million in revenue, but that isn't one-tenth of 1 percent of what you're gambling against if any of that waste gets lose in the aquifer."

Andrus called this an attempt by Otter to turn Idaho into a new Yucca Mountain, referencing the controversial nuclear waste repository in Nevada that was closed in 2011 following widespread political opposition. 

"I've been around a long time," Andrus said in January. "But I guess I'm going to have to live a bit longer because we're not going to put up with this."
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Former Idaho Governors: Strong Words for Otter's New Nuclear Waste Deal

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus address a room of reporters on Thursday morning, appalled at Gov. Butch Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Former Idaho Governors Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus address a room of reporters on Thursday morning, appalled at Gov. Butch Otter's attempt to bring more nuclear waste to Idaho.

Former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's recent decision to reopen importation of spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory was "done in the dark of night."

Democrat Andrus sat aside former Republican Governor Phil Batt, at the Andrus Center for Public Policy on Thursday morning, and both were clearly upset and appalled that Otter would break Batt's 1995 landmark agreement, forbidding any more nuclear waste to come into Idaho. 

"Neither one of us have any intention of letting this decision by two of the elected officials in the state of Idaho (Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden) come to pass," Andrus said.

Both the governors spent large amounts of their terms stopping the importation of spent nuclear fuel into Idaho. Batt produced the 1995 Agreement, which was then ratified by more than 60 percent of Idaho voters. 

"It's not my agreement, it's Idaho's agreement," Batt said.

But in spite of that 1995 pact,  Otter and Wasden have agreed to receive 50 spent nuclear rods, each weighting 1,500 pounds, for a total of 37.5 tons of nuclear waste, according to Andrus. The letter between Wasden and the Department of Energy states that the nuclear waste will be used for "research purposes."

Batt doesn't buy that. He wrote a letter to Otter on Jan. 12, criticizing Otter's decision and reprimanding him for going ahead with it without consulting Batt or Andrus.

The danger of the waste accumulating at the Idaho National Laboratory, Batt said, is the risk it poses for the Snake River Aquifer, directly under the repository site.

"If there was contamination in that water," Batt said, "it would cause our potato industry to fold up. It would cause fish farms to fold up in Magic Valley. It would create all kind of problems with municipal water."

"It could gain $10 million in revenue, but that isn't one tenth of one percent of what you're gambling against if any of that waste gets lose in the aquifer," Andrus added.

Throughout the press conference, Batt was calm and firm. Andrus on the other hand—expressed outright anger.

"I read in the paper that the Governor is concerned about his legacy, how many terms he will lead and so forth," Andrus said. "I will tell you what his legacy will be. It's going to be that they've created a Yucca Mountain in Idaho. That the two of them have done to this state what every other state and this state until now has opposed—and that is the importation of high-level radioactive waste for Idaho for storage."

Andrus and Batt's greatest fear with Otter's decision is that Idaho will be stuck with the nuclear waste forever, and turn the state into the nuclear waste repository for America—and without any input from Idahoans.

"If this was so important to the state of Idaho and how we were going to gain from it, why didn't he mention it in his State of the State address?" Andrus said. "I'll tell you why, it's because he didn't want the people to know what they'd done in the dark of night in secrecy, in breaking this agreement and letting new waste come into the state of Idaho. It's a travesty," Andrus added, raising his voice.

"I've been around a long time," Andrus said, "But I guess I'm going to have to live a bit longer because we're not going to put up with this."
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Bizarre Tale of Don Gillispie: A $10B Nuclear Plant, a Pretty Blonde and a Dog Named Bosco

Posted By on Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Over the years, Boise Weekly followed Don Gillispie—the embattled CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings, who had a scheme to build a $10 billion nuclear reactor in Idaho—from Owyhee to Elmore to Payette counties, and ultimately to the federal courthouse in Boise. But this week, Gillispie's colorful journey may have finally come to an end when a federal grand jury handed up an indictment against him and a former AEHI vice president, accusing them of conspiracy, fraud and lying to the Internal Revenue Service.

Gillispie's plan to build a nuclear reactor was told "no" or "conditional maybe's" by officials in Elmore and Owyhee counties, but it was Payette County officials who reacted favorably to his grand plan.

"Look here," said Payette County Planning and Zoning Commissioner Farrell Rawlings in 2010. "Our governor is in favor of this. Every mayor in our county is in favor of this. Our chamber of commerce is in favor of this."

That was music to Gillispie's ears, telling Payette P&Z commissioners, "This county will have more money than you'll know what to do with."

Payette County Planning and Zoning commissioners gave Gillispie a green light in December 2010, when they agreed to rezone nearly 5,000 acres of rural land from agricultural to industrial use for Gillispie's nuclear dream. Gillispie was promising 5,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs if his nuclear reactor was ever built.

That was then.

Over the years, Gillispie's AEHI started taking in millions of dollars of investor money. In fact, federal prosecutors told Boise Weekly in 2012 that Gillispie started spending investors' money without any explanation.

Theen there was Jennifer Ransom and her little dog Bosco.

Ransom is a pretty blonde. That's exactly how Gillispie described her in a 2012 deposition. Asked about his many international travels with Ransom, Gillispie spoke of their trips to the Far East.

"Quite frankly, Asians like a pretty blonde face to look at," said Gillispie. "So it doesn't hurt."

Gillispie hired Ransom in 2008. Just exactly what her duties were was the topic of much debate during the federal court hearings. AEHI attorneys presented her as a secretary with "no day-to-day responsibilities." Her official title was senior vice president, but Ransom was quick to remind anyone who would listen that she was no longer an employee of AEHI. Rather, she said, she was the president of Energy Neutral, a company founded by Gillispie.

Finally, the mysterious Bosco. On numerous occasions during the hearing, attorneys referred to something called Bosco Financial, LLC, through which hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed.

"Bosco is a family dog," Ransom told BW. "It's the name of my consulting company." Ransom confirmed that her only client was Gillispie's AEHI.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Gillispie was "pumping and dumping"—manipulating AEHI stock through false statements and allowing key management to sell shares at inflated prices. The SEC also said that Gillispie and Ransom tried to hide their stock sales, inflated salaries and trips to exotic locales including Acapulco, Mexico; the Bellagio in Las Vegas; and the Far East.

Gillispie resigned as AEHI's CEO in late 2012 citing "health concerns."

Now, Gillispie and Ransom are facing 14 counts of alleged federal crimes. Gillispie pleaded not-guilty in a federal court arraignment on Friday. Ransom's arraignment is expected to occur this coming week.
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Report: Hanford Workers Carried Guns Onto Nuclear Reservation, Poached Elk

Posted By on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Two workers at Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation are reportedly still employed at that facility, even after admitting to bringing guns onto the nuclear site and poaching elk on Hanford property.

This morning's Tri-City Herald reports that state investigators found that Daniel Charboneau and Brock Miller, both Hanford employees, came up the Columbia River by boat, where signs are posted along the river not to trespass on Hanford land. Investigators discovered that the men killed three elk, two on restricted Hanford land and a third along the Columbia River, an area also closed to the public.

But the Herald reports both men had their jail sentences suspended after agreeing to pay fines. Additionally, the Herald reports that both Hanford workers continue to be employed at the nuclear reservation.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Washington State to Feds on Leaking Radioactive Tank: Inaction is Unacceptable

Posted By on Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM

It has been more than a year since officials at Washington's Hanford Nuclear Site have known that radioactive and hazardous chemical waste was leaking from a double-shell tank, and the U.S. Department of Energy has been warned that its lack of action is "unacceptable."

In February 2013, we first told you that the DOE had acknowledged declining levels of liquid in tanks at Hanford.

And now, this morning's Tri-City Herald reports that Washington Department of Ecology has fired off a letter to DOE, saying Washington officials were "deeply disappointed" and feds can't delay any further in emptying the leaking tank. But the Herald reports that DOE officials are estimating that they need another 18 to 20 months to remove sludge from the tank.

"However, this does not relieve you from the regulatory requirement to remove it at the earliest practicable time," Washington state officials wrote to DOE. "We cannot support merely waiting for conditions to worsen before taking action."

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bill Gates Visits INL, Promotes His 'Traveling Wave Reactor'

Posted By on Sat, Oct 26, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Bill Gates visited the INL October 23 to talk up his traveling wave reactor project.
  • Idaho National Lab
  • Bill Gates visited the INL Oct. 23 to talk up his "traveling wave reactor" project.

Employees of the Idaho National Lab were on alert for a V.I.P. visit Oct. 23. It wasn't a government contractor that was coming through; it was someone a lot more important and with much deeper pockets.

INL officials confirmed that billionaire Bill Gates visited INL's Materials and Fuels Complex to talk up his nuclear reactor startup company: TerraPower. In particular Gates, and his investors, are looking for INL's "engagement" to "support certain aspects of design" of something called a "traveling wave reactor."

Unlike existing nuclear reactors, a traveling wave reactor burns fuel from depleted uranium, a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. The traveling wave reactor gradually converts the material through a nuclear reaction, without removing the fuel from the reactor's core, a process that developers say can be sustained indefinitely while generating heat and producing electricity.

"Our work with INL is singularly important," Gates told employees of the East Idaho facility. "Getting to visit INL was really enlightening. It was amazing to see reactor fuel analysis and how it can be conducted safely in a hot cell environment."

TerraPower, headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., is a privately funded company which says its mission is to "advance scalable, sustainable, low-carbon and cost-competitive energy solutions."

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Herald: Hanford Whistleblower Kicked to the Curb

Posted By on Sat, Oct 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

A whistleblower who alerted the federal government of safety concerns at the Hanford Nuclear Site has been laid off by Hanford contractor URS Corp. This morning's Tri-City Herald reports that 44-year URS employee Walter Tamosaitis lost his position as research and technology manager at the Hanford vitrification plant in 2010, but continued to be employed by the contractor. Now he's been entirely cut loose.

In 2009 Tamosaitis asked feds to investigate the nuclear facility, claiming that safety and design concerns were being suppressed at the Washington operation. Regulators have since stopped construction on key parts of the vitrification plant until technical issues were addressed. And this past week the Department of Energy released the results of a new audit that found that Hanford had not followed procedures to prove that changes to the design of the vitrification plant equipment would be safe once the plant begins operating.

In the meantime, Tamosaitis is out of a job.

The Herald reports that, in order to receive severance pay from URS after being laid off, Tamosaitis was required to sign a document releasing URS from any liability.

Tamosaitis said he believes he was dismissed from URS for "persisting in raising concerns about the future safe operation of the plant." URS claims Tamosaitis was let go because his work was ended and "he was dismissed for writing a disrespectful email."

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Report: Hanford Leak Was Likely Found Too Late

Posted By on Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 1:00 PM

In February, it was revealed that between 150 and 300 gallons of radioactive material might be seeping from the Hanford Nuclear Site's underground waste storage tanks.

This morning, the Tri-City Herald reports that the leak was probably discovered too late.

The cause of the leak most likely was flaws in the construction of the tank in the late '60s, but "the leakage could have been identified earlier by monitoring from more widespread access points," the report said.

The Department of Energy report also raised concerns about maintenance in the tank farms—groups of underground tanks holding radioactive waste—which date to as early as World War II.

The contractor is struggling with a backlog of maintenance to prevent and correct problems with aging infrastructure, the report said.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Nuclear Waste Rejected by Pennsylvania Gets Sent to Idaho

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM

A Pennsylvania newspaper reports that radioactive drilling waste—already rejected by a southwestern Pennsylvania landfill—has been transported instead to Idaho.

The Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter reports that the waste—radioactive drill cuttings—was rejected in April by a disposal site in South Huntingdon Township, southeast of Pittsburgh. The shipments contained something called TENORM—that's technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material.

The Observer-Reporter reports that a truck carrying the drill cuttings set off a radiation warning system on April 19, when entering the Pennsylvania waste disposal site. The truck was immediately quarantined and it was determined that the drilling cuttings contained Radium 226 at a level of 96 microrem, the measure of the biological effect of absorbed radiation.

The shipment has since been transported to Idaho, where according to the Observer-Reporter, it will be disposed by U.S. Ecology.

U.S. Ecology, headquartered in Boise, operates a disposal site in Grand View, southwest of Mountain Home.

Andy Marshall, U.S. Ecology's vice president of environmental and health and safety, told Boise Weekly that the company's Grand View facility was regulated and designed to store such material.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Herald: CH2M Hill Execs Indicted For Timecard Fraud at Hanford

Posted By on Sat, Mar 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

CH2M Hill has agreed to pay $18.5 million and 10 of its current or former upper managers and supervisors have been indicted after being accused of timecard fraud at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Hanford, Wash.

This morning's Tri-City Herald reports that a federal grand jury handed up the indictments—which included conspiracy, submission of false claims, major frauds against the United States, wire fraud, violation of the anti-kickbackback act and document alteration.

"This conduct was not consistent with CH2M Hill values, but it happened on our watch," a company statement said. "And we should have rooted it out sooner."

The indictment came after a previous independent audit warned CH2M Hill in 2004 about timecard inconsistencies, yet the alleged fraud continued until 2008, CH2M Hill has since lost its contract with Hanford.

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