A fight to end, Governor Andrus' battle to keep nuclear waste out of the Gem State

Posted at 7:47 PM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-25 21:47:48-04

As governor of Idaho, Cecil Andrus led a battle to keep the Gem State from being a dumping ground for nuclear waste. In July of 2016, he sat down with 6 On Your Side to talk about the promises he said were broken, and why someone needs to pick up where he left off.

"I'm 85, how long am I gonna be around to see this resolved, but doggone it, somebody is going to have to take the bull by the horns," said Cecil Andrus the late Governor of Idaho and Democrat.    

When Cecil Andrus became governor, he visited what is now the Idaho National Laboratory.
"What they did was take a bulldozer and dig holes in the sand and put in barrels and paste board boxes and covered it up with sand and called that storage, and it's above the largest fresh water aquifer in America," explained Governor Andrus. 

In 1970, Governor Andrus met with the head of the Atomic Energy Commission who promised to remove the nuclear waste by the end of the decade, Andrus said that was the first of many broken promises. In 1988 he took a stand against further shipments with the help of a state trooper who blocked trucks filled with waste from crossing the border.  

"A freelance photographer who was a stringer for the New York Times took a picture of him, shot it back to New York," explained Governor Andrus. "Well, that got the attention of some of the politicos that didn't understand what was going on."  

Andrus' successor, Phil Batt struck a deal with the feds allowing more waste into Idaho but with another promise, all high-level waste would be gone by 2035. But Governor Andrus said politics are keeping that from happening. 

"We end up being the garbage dump," said Governor Andrus.

Governor Andrus said deadlines in the 95 Batt agreement were missed, more promises broken, and still no permanent repository for the potentially deadly waste. So, when current Governor Butch Otter suggested allowing more waste in for research, Andrus and batt threatened to sue. 

"If anything metal fatigue, time, a seismic impact from an earthquake, it would release any of that liquid high level into the aquifer, it would be the end of the economy in Idaho and southern Idaho," said Governor Andrus.   

At this point, no new waste appears to be coming in. During the interview, we asked if he thought he had a legal right to post that trooper at the border. He said he knew he didn't have a legal right, but sometimes you have to break the rules to do what's right.