Nuclear Waste in Idaho

Joe Begovich
November 24, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: Nuclear Waste Shipment leaving Idaho. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)fi

Since the 1950's the State of Idaho has stored nuclear waste at a site owned by the U.S. Department of Energy on behalf of the Department. This nuclear waste is stored at the Idaho National Laboratory. [1] This nuclear waste was generated primarily from research for the US Navy. At the Idaho National Laboratory, approximately 900,000 gallons of high-level nuclear waste are awaiting disposal. [2] The role Idaho has played in developing nuclear technology helped the protect our nation's security. However, it has left many problems for the state.


The agreement between the State of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy stated that the state would temporarily keep the nuclear waste until a permanent site would be developed somewhere out of the state. The 1995 agreement states that all nuclear waste must be removed from the state by 2035. [3] Fig. 1 shows a very limited shipment of nuclear waste leaving the State of Idaho. The state hopes similar shipments will occur to free the state of nuclear waste. However, no alternative locations in other states have been found or developed. Additionally, portions of the waste were meant to be removed in 2011 and 2012 and sent to New Mexico. However the deadlines for the removal have continued to be missed. [1] Additionally, another deadline in 2016 was missed because scientists couldn't handle the waste at a new facility. [2] In the meantime there are serious concerns about the environmental impact on the state.


The state has agreed to receive the waste because of the positive economic impact it receives as a result. [3] However the potential long-term environmental impacts are concerning to many Idahoans. The Idaho National Laboratory currently stores 308 metric tons of nuclear waste. [3] The main concern is that the waste could seep into important aquifers. [3] It is clear that Idaho and the Department of Energy need to find a long term solution to the nuclear waste that continues to be shipped to the state to protect the environment and the state from potential future consequences and ensure the waste is removed by 2035.

© Joe Begovich. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] R. Vartabedian, "The Idaho National Lab Created a 'Wonder Fuel'. Now, It's Radioactive Waste That Won't Go Away," Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug 17.

[2] "U.S. Seeks 20-Year Extension to Store Nuclear Waste from Three Mile Island at Idaho Site," Los Angeles Times, 10 Jun 17.

[3] C. Andrews, "Idaho's Nuclear Waste: A Problem We're Leaving to Our Children," Idaho Press Tribune, 11 Jan 17.