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Former Idaho governor sues U.S. Department of Energy over Freedom of Information

Andrus files suit over nuclear fuel http://www.mtexpress.com/news/environment/andrus-files-suit-over-nuclear-fuel/article_8a0e394c-6879-11e5-a133-2fd9ff4be90a.html, 2 Oct 15 
Former governor cites Freedom of Information Act Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy to force it to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and publicly share information relating to proposed shipments of commercial spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.

The suit was filed Tuesday in federal district court in Idaho on Andrus’ behalf by the Boise-based environmental law firm Advocates for the West.

Gov. Butch Otter announced in January that he would grant a one-time waiver to the 1995 Batt agreement to allow the proposed shipments if the DOE can restart a problem-plagued liquid-waste processing plant at INL, east of Arco. He said permission to ship the fuel for research at INL can be used as an incentive to get the liquid waste out of the state faster.

But nuclear activists contend the two proposed shipments of 25 fuel rods, weighing about 100 pounds per shipment, are part of a plan to open the door to ship about 20 metric tons of spent commercial nuclear fuel into the state.

In a news release, Advocates for the West said the lawsuit comes after months of effort by Andrus to require DOE to provide information to Idaho citizens about its request for the waiver.    “Without DOE leveling with Idaho about both near-term and longer-range plans, we simply have no ability to assess the wisdom of what they are planning for the state,” Andrus said. “I suspect they know what they are planning will be very controversial, and for that reason they want to keep it secret. That is simply unacceptable.”

Andrus requested information about the waiver and proposed shipments in January. Advocates for the West said DOE provided documents containing dozens of redacted pages. In a letter dated July 10, the agency justified its refusal to provide other documents by saying they fell under exemptions contained in the Freedom of Information Act, including those related to proprietary information of private companies and attorney-client privilege.

Advocates for the West said virtually all the information DOE supplied was already in the public record, including newspaper accounts of the agency’s request for a waiver from state officials.

Andrus appealed the decision to withhold the information, and that appeal was also denied.

“The DOE has left us little choice but to ask the federal courts to enforce the law,” Andrus said. “A fundamental tenet of the American system of government is openness and transparency. The people have both a right and an obligation to know what their government is doing. That is why we feel it is so important to bring this information to light.”

Andrus said that without a permanent national repository for the highly radioactive material, Idaho will for the foreseeable future become that repository. Email the writer: gmoore@mtexpress.com

October 2, 2015 - Posted by | Legal, USA

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