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Court: Idaho nuclear waste documents won’t be made public via ABC News

U.S. officials don’t have to provide details about proposed shipments of extremely radioactive spent commercial nuclear fuel to the country’s top government nuclear research laboratory in Idaho, a federal court has ruled.

The ruling was a major setback to a lawsuit filed by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who had a long history of legal battles with the Energy Department over nuclear waste entering the state and a firm belief that residents had a right to know the agency’s plans.

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That decision means the documents will not be released to the public anytime soon, but they ultimately could be as another part of Andrus’ argument has yet to play out and the case remains open.

Andrus, a Democrat who died in August at age 85, filed the lawsuit in September 2015 after receiving heavily blacked-out documents from the federal agency about the spent commercial nuclear fuel shipments. His daughter, Tracy Andrus, has been substituted with the court’s approval as the plaintiff in the case.

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The lawsuit seeks information about several hundred pounds of proposed research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel the federal agency wants to send to the Idaho National Laboratory, the nation’s top federal nuclear research lab. The shipments required a waiver to a nuclear waste agreement the Energy Department and Idaho signed in 1995 limiting nuclear waste shipments to Idaho. The agreement followed federal court victories by then Gov. Andrus at a time when he feared the state was becoming a repository for the nation’s nuclear waste.

Andrus, before his death from complications from cancer, contended that signing such a waiver would open the state up to receiving tons of nuclear waste from around the nation, and is why he sought information about the Energy Department’s plans.

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Energy Department officials didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press on Wednesday. The agency has previously said it wants to better understand “high burnup” spent fuel that is accumulating at nuclear power plants in the U.S. The fuel stays longer in nuclear reactors than other nuclear fuel and produces more energy. But its spent fuel comes out hotter and more radioactive than fuel that does not stay so long in reactors.

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The former governor in a 2016 interview with The Associated Press said he filed the lawsuit because “we have to know what’s going on.”

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