The Idaho National Energy and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) seems to be putting more faith in the power of advertising these days. Almost exactly a year after the Independent ran a cover story profiling the modern problems of radioactive waste incineration and storage at INEEL, and after subsequent scandals covered in the Indy involving workers carelessly exposed to radioactive waste, and most recently, software that stealthily tracked visitors’ movements on INEEL’s websites, the federal nuclear facility, based 250 miles upwind of Yellowstone National Park, apparently wanted citizens of the intermountain West to know they’re not all bad.
The solution? An expensive-looking eight-page color insert placed for the first time “in the hometown newspapers of the Utah and Montana universities,” called Inside INEEL, which could be found inside the Feb. 14 edition of the Missoulian. Judging by the content of the advertising circular, the good people of INEEL are saving the world from toxic annihilation at least as fast as they can put it at risk. The chest-thumping is evident from the first page, where readers learn that a common food-grade preservative has been discovered as a fine way to clean up subsurface ground contaminants, that INEEL employs 6,260 people and is probably subsidizing the science department at a public university near you, including the one here in Missoula.
No word though, on whether or not the same stuff that keeps your crackers tasting fresh for weeks will be eating up the toxic sludge at INEEL’s Pit 9, which the EPA says is more toxic than any site at Hanford or anyplace else, for that matter. Nor was there any mention of the pending lawsuit of a former INEEL employee who for years insisted that he incinerated toxic wastes without proper protection, a claim a recent EPA report indicated is far from baseless. Also no word from the Missoulian—a paper that depending on which way the jet stream blows could be one of the largest dailies downwind of INEEL—on whether the handsome advertising revenue an eight-page insert must generate will affect their coverage of any of these stories, which until last week’s guest-written insert, was next to nothing. No news, in this case, is as good as the news INEEL can write.