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Borehole Researchers Try for South Dakota

By Staff | Apr 29, 2016

TULARE, S.D. Residents of Tulare and Redfield had the chance to meet with researchers from Battelle Memorial Institute, South Dakota State University and the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday and Thursday nights. On Tuesday afternoon two county commissioners had a meeting with Battelle to learn more about the project. News of Spink County being considered for the borehole test had become public only six days before, although Governor Dennis Daugaard had already expressed public support for the project.

About 60 people attended the Wednesday night meeting at Tulare High School. Many of the people expressed the same concerns as residents of Pierce County had two months earlier. What would happen to the borehole after the five year test was the question that kept coming up, as well as what the Dept. of Energy would do with the findings once they had precise knowledge of the geological formation below Spink County. Residents asked how they could trust in this process. Andrew Griffith of the Dept. of Energy tried to assuage concerns by reminding them that this specific site was unsuitable because of presence of the Dakota Aquifer. He also said that residents should watch their actions to see for themselves just how committed the Dept. of Energy was to local consent. Rod Osborne from Battelle said numerous times that the borehole disposal program is still 15-20 years down the road.

Some Battelle representatives appeared visibly angry during portions of the evening. When asked why the meeting wasn’t well advertised and they only had 4 days’ notice, TR Massey replied that the “girl who answered the phone at the newspaper wasn’t interestedit’s not my fault if they don’t want to cover the story”. When pressed on if Spink County would ever become a nuclear waste dump, Massey went on to say “Who do you want to have this waste? Show me the lesser American, who is lesser than you, who you would point your finger at and say, ‘here, you have this waste.'” He also noted that the waste that is suitable for borehole disposal is all high-level defense and weapons waste from WWII, not commercial grade. “We haven’t paid the debt from Truman’s decision of Hiroshima. This is the debt from facing down the USSR and no one has paid that dinner bill”.

Contrary to earlier reports that a private landowner had already given consent, Osborne dialed that back saying that numerous private land owners had been contacted but none would give consent until the community had given consent. One Tulare resident commented that they had put those landowners and county commissioners in a horrible position, arguing that if they go ahead with the project those landowners would be ostracized from the community. Another wanted to know who owns the site after the test is over and if the private land owner would be able to sell or rent the site out to whoever they please, including the Dept. of Energy.

In the end residents remained split. Shawna Stanley said she came to get information, not make a decision. Though she said she felt comfortable with the project, the Dakota Aquifer made Spink County a bad place for an actual waste site and state laws prohibit nuclear waste disposal without state involvement. Another resident said that it all came down to trust, and if he decided he could trust Battelle and the DOE he would be in favor of the project, but that remained to be seen. Bill Valentine said he will never change his mind because he “doesn’t trust the federal government here, period.” County Commissioner Cindy Shultz, from Tulare, said that the county had too much at stake, she asked them to “show us the laws to protect us”. Without legal protection from future federal overreach she said the project was a no-go. Other commissioners noted that they felt alone in this decision, with no communication from any state officials.

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