Fmr. Gov. Cecil Andrus details his fight against storing nuclear waste in Idaho

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-23 00:36:36-04

Former longtime Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus served as the Gem State’s chief executive for 14 years.

During that time, he dealt with many issues facing Idaho, but one in particular has been a lifelong battle. 

Andrus has been battling for decades to keep nuclear water from being stored in Idaho. After Andrus became Governor, he toured the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho and was disturbed by what he says they called storage of nuclear waste.

“They took a bulldozer and dug a hole in the sand and put in barrel and paste board boxes, then covered it up with sand and called that storage. And it is above the largest fresh water aquifer in America,” said Andrus.

Andrus told 6 On Your Side that during a meeting in 1970 with the head of the Atomic Energy Commission a promise was made to remove the waste by the end of the decade. 

Andrus alleges this promise was the first in a series of broken promises made by the federal government.

After serving as Secretary of Interior under President Jimmy Carter, Andrus returned to the Idaho Statehouse.

In 1988, Andrus says he had enough, so he took a stand against the government sending more nuclear waste into Idaho and sent a state trooper to physically block a shipment headed for INL. 

“I said, 'The only way we are going to get rid of it is to block the border and the patrolman who parked his car had a bicep as big as my thigh. He was wearing a gun, and he was parked on the tracks.'  A freelance photographer who was a stringer for the New York Time took a picture of him and shot it back to the Times. It was on the front page, and that got the attention of some politicians who did not understand what was going on,” said Andrus.

When Phil Batt succeeded Andrus as governor, one of his first actions was striking a deal with the federal government allowing more waste into Idaho. But there were strings attached, and the waste was eventually supposed to be moved to the then-under-construction Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site.

After the government spend billions of taxpayer dollars constructing the site, it never opened.

“That was wrong. I disagreed with it then, and I disagree with it now,” Andrus said. He added that deadlines in the 1995 Batt agreement have been missed, more promises have been broken and the nation is no closer to a permanent nuclear repository.

When Governor Butch Otter suggested allowing more waste into Idaho for research and economic benefit, Andrus and Batt threatened to sue. The two former governors argue that if the waste were to somehow leak into the aquifer, it would destroy the economy in southern Idaho.