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This Digging is Soulful Work

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In the 1950's and 60's radioactive waste from the making of nuclear bombs was buried at the Idaho National Laboratory in unlined pits directly over the Snake River Aquifer. In 2005, the DOE launched the Accelerated Retrieval Project (ARP) to dig up those contaminants that posed the most immediate threat to the aquifer. In the Fall of 2020 all "targeted material" will have been exhumed from 5.69 acres of ground (more than 4 football fields.) Afterwards the 90+ acres of contaminated ground will be capped and then monitored in perpetuity. I am proposing that upon completion of the digging, all employees at ARP be offered pay for day of pause and reflection. 

This campaign hopes to raise money to pay workers who would choose to take a day to sit with this contaminated ground and to process what for so many years was 'out of sight, out of mind.' Donors to this campaign, regardless of the amount given, will be invited to participate in this day of pause and reflection following the completion of the digging at the Accelerated Retrieval Project. In addition, workers at ARP and donors will be invited to attend a wake (a local event for pause and reflection) with details TBA. Donors will be informed of all negotiations with the INL regarding their offering.

While it is certainly unconventional to raise money for a party who has neither asked for, nor accepted the help, as tax payers, we have already been asked to shoulder the burden of this grave human error. Upon completion, the Accelerated Retrieval Project will have cost us over a billion dollars. Since taxpayers have been asked to take financial ownership of the mistakes that were made, I propose that we use this particular mistake as an opportunity to recover a bit of ourselves, for it is when we sit with the loss brought on by our own mistakes that we ourselves become more human.

I propose this course of action not only for the psychological health of individuals but for the continuing maintenance and psychological health of the institution that will be responsible for monitoring the aquifer in perpetuity.  As of now, the story goes like this: "Having successfully retrieved all targeted waste, the cap will be installed and institutional controls enacted." I don't seek to change this story, but hope that we can arrive there together on a  gut level. I propose that you and I make this offering together as a way of deepening the story of this "accelerated" digging project so that we move forward, as the imperfect humans we are, carrying the burden of our history with us.


Tim Andreae
Boise, ID

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