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Fed board meets in Idaho to discuss nuclear waste storage

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Eric Tegethoff

(Northern Rockies News Service) Federal officials are in Idaho to discuss where to store nuclear waste. The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent federal agency, is holding two meetings in Idaho Falls. The first is today and will feature a workshop on the siting of radioactive waste facilities. Wednesday's board meeting will focus on the Energy Department's consent-based siting process for waste. 

Don Hancock, the nuclear waste program director for the Southwest Research and Information Center, said the consent-based process fell by the wayside during the Trump administration but has become a focus again under President Biden.

"They're starting off saying we think we want to come up with a consent-based process to see if we can store spent fuel for some considerable period of time," he explained. "But people would be consenting to temporary storage as opposed to permanent disposal."

Hancock added the Obama administration decided the siting process should prioritize temporary sites rather than long-term geological storage and the Biden administration has picked up there. The public can be involved in both Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board's meetings this week, either in person or online.

Hancock noted that Boise State University was selected by the Energy Department to receive $2 million dollars to study consent-based siting. However, he added it is not clear what that means for Idaho.

"An important question that I think people of Idaho would want to know is does Boise State and their partners think that what they're doing now and what they could be doing down the line is having Idaho consent to being this kind of interim storage site?," he said. 

Boise State University did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline for this story.