The director of the Idaho National Laboratory says it's problematic whether a small quantity of spent nuclear fuel needed for research will be allowed into Idaho this spring.
The lab renegotiated a research agreement to allow the shipment to be received later this year, Mark Peters told the Post Register.
However, the continued failure of a treatment facility to process 900,000 gallons of high-level nuclear waste stored at the 890-square-mile U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho has caused the federal agency to violate a 1995 agreement with Idaho.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden as a result is refusing to allow research quantities of spent nuclear fuel into Idaho until the facility, called the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit, is operating.
"We still have the need to bring in small quantities," Peters said. "And the official position of the attorney general is, until IWTU is running hot, he will not allow that to happen. So this is problematic. Very problematic."
A previous research shipment has instead been sent to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Peters said his lab could potentially lose the next shipment as well.
"If IWTU goes beyond (spring), then we need to continue to rethink," Peters said.
The shipment from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois was originally scheduled for last June.
Late last month, the Department of Energy said a small-scale version of a key component of the waste treatment facility was being sent to Colorado to better understand why the treatment facility isn't operating as planned.
The continued failure to get the treatment facility operating is a blow to the federal agency's desire to bring in the research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel to the lab in Idaho, one of 17 Department of Energy labs in the nation and the primary lab for nuclear research.
Work on the spent fuel, if it gets to Idaho, is expected to bring in millions of dollars to the area.