Friday, August 28, 2009

Something Odd in Chester

Rocky Barker over at the Idaho Statesman has a provocative article in Thursday's paper in which Boise-based American Ecology questions whether a grassroots group based in Chester, Idaho, is really a front for a rival low-level nuclear waste disposal company, EnergySolutions, based in Salt Lake City. (The Salt Lake Tribune runs a similar story here.) Barker's story is superior, but that's to be expected as he's long written about environmental issues in the state.

Given that there are denials from the group's founder, former Utah developer Steven Loosli -- whose family has long had roots in the Chester area -- and a no-nevermind denial from EnergySolutions, it's clear that the question of grassroots group or shill won't be settled any time soon. And that's just as well. There are enough odd little tics throughout the situation that will keep the speculators speculating, and for good reason.

Of course neither Loosli nor EnergySolutions are going to outright say, yup, American Ecology's got us bang to rights. Both Loosli and EnergySolutions deny any connection between the group and the company. But there's something about Citizens for a Clean Idaho's specificity in how they want to keep Idaho clean that just seems a little odd.

Basically put, Citizens for a Clean Idaho doesn't like that Westinghouse is considering moving low-level nuclear waste -- mostly slightly contaminated soil -- from a Missouri reactor site to the Idaho landfill near Grand View (near Mountain Home). They claim that since American Ecology's site isn't licensed with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee, that the waste shouldn't be shipped to Idaho.

That's fine in and of itself. But what seems odd is that to stretch from Chester to Grand View, Citizens for a Clean Idaho have to leap over the Idaho National Laboratory, home of the United States' nuclear navy, its nuclear energy research lab, and a high-level nuclear waste respository that's currently being cleaned up. The group also apparently has no quibble with French company Areva's plans to build a $3 billion uranium processing facility west of Idaho Falls, producing a lot more waste that Westinghouse wants to send to Grand View.

The group says on its website that they don't oppose the nuclear industry:
We believe that a strong, regulated nuclear industry in the U.S. (and Idaho) provides competitive, security, and economic benefits to the country. We do believe, though, that the regulations and guidelines imposed by the NRC need to be followed to the letter to ensure the public health, safety, and welfare of American citizens.
Barker gets some interesting comments from the Snake River Alliance, a group which has long been a nuclear watchdog in the state. They, too, think Citizens for a Clean Idaho's concentration on the Grand View site, while overlooking the INL and Areva's pending arrival, is odd. Now, if this group wants to concentrate on Grand View and Grand View only, that's fine. It just sounds odd to me, that's all.

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