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IDAHO PLANS TO CLOSE BORDERS TO N-WASTE

Gov. Cecil Andrus says Idaho's borders will be "buttoned up" again Sept. 1 to shipments of nuclear waste, following another delay in opening the federal government's first permanent nuclear waste dump.

Andrus' vow came after Energy Secretary James Watkins told a Senate committee that the $800 million Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., probably won't open until February 1990 to begin accepting Idaho's vast amounts of nuclear waste.Andrus first banned the shipment of nuclear waste for storage at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls last October, after the DOE failed to open WIPP last September as promised.

Andrus lifted that ban Feb. 23, allowing two boxcars of atomic waste a month for six months to be stored at the INEL from the Rocky Flats nuclear plant near Denver.

"It doesn't change my plans at all," Andrus said. "I gave them my word that I would allow the shipments until Sept. 1. I'll keep my word, but Idaho's borders will be buttoned up as of Sept. 1."

Andrus said he had lifted the ban for national security reasons, saying keeping the ban in effect would have put the nation and the world in an unacceptable defense posture.

The Rocky Flats plant was in danger of shutting down unless Andrus lifted the ban it is nearly full to capacity of stored nuclear waste. Andrus said there were no other sites in the nation licensed to accept more nuclear waste.

Watkins told the Armed Services Committee the Environmental Protection Agency needs more time to completely evaluate the DOE's request for a special waiver for WIPP.

The DOE is asking for relief from the EPA's no-migration requirement, which calls for certain hazardous waste dumps to guarantee the waste will not migrate into sensitive areas such as groundwater.

Andrus renewed his criticism of the Energy Department, saying it once again failed to live up to promises made to him and former Gov. John Evans.