Idaho, Energy Department ink deal on reactor’s nuclear waste

The future is clearer for a test reactor in Idaho that develops fuel for the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered warships following an agreement signed Tuesday.

Republican Gov. Brad Little and Republican Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the deal involving the Energy Department’s Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The agreement makes clear that spent fuel from the reactor can be kept in a cooling canal at the site past 2023, but must eventually go into dry storage and shipped out of state.

Idaho and the Energy Department disagreed that a 2023 deadline existed under a 1995 agreement between the two entities. The new agreement clears up that matter without litigation.

The 1995 agreement requires nuclear waste to be out of Idaho by 2035. The deal announced Tuesday means waste from the Advanced Test Reactor will continue to be produced and put into the canal after that date.

But the deal limits how much time the spent fuel can be stored in the canal to six years, and requires it to be shipped out of state within one year of going into dry storage. The Energy Department must also tell Idaho officials how much spent fuel is in the canal.

The Energy Department describes its Advanced Test Reactor as the world’s most powerful research reactor. Besides helping develop fuel for the navy, it also assists universities and industry with nuclear research.

That deal announced Tuesday is similar to an agreement Idaho has with the U.S. Navy, which sends its spent nuclear fuel to the Energy Department’s 890-square-mile site west of Idaho Falls that includes the Idaho National Laboratory. (AP)

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