In 1993, the Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory (INEEL, now INL) began to consider methods of "treating" nuclear and hazardous waste from facilities in Idaho and other sites in the United States. Two years later, the lab announced it's plans to pursue a plutonium waste treatment facility, without specifying any particular technology. The contract for the facility was awarded to British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL).
By July of 1998, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had been released, indicating that the waste would be incinerated. For the first time since the facilities inception, public meetings/hearings were held in Idaho. The Snake River Alliance, an Idaho based nuclear watchdog, asked for a new review, citing that alternatives to incineration had not been explored.
When Jackson residents learned of the proposed Plutonium Incinerator through a letter to the News & Guide, Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free is formed. Residents demanded and were granted a hearing in Jackson, at which community members from all walks of life pledged their support in fighting the incinerator.
As BNFL began pre-construction for the facility in the summer of 1999, Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free and Environmental Defense Institute sued, in federal court, for a new review of the Plutonium Incinerator. By October, the Sierra Club and Snake River Alliance had joined the suit and along with the citizens of Jackson, demanded the halt of the Incinerator's construction
KYNF Board members traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. to meet with national media, members of Congress, and White House officials, to press for an immediate halt to the incinerator project.
In March of 2000, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced that the Department of Energy had settled the lawsuit brought by KYNF and other environmental groups. The Incinerator project ceased and Richardson personally traveled to Jackson to convey the news to residents.
Incineration is now known to be a dangerous and unsound method of treating radioactive waste. Had the citizens of Jackson and KYNF not voiced their opposition to this program, the Department of Energy would have gone down a very dangerous path. This story vindicates the important role of citizen oversight in government operations and serves as the model for all modern KYNF campaigns and operations.