Idaho waste retrieval project reaches early completion

April 1, 2022, 7:11AMRadwaste Solutions
An aerial view of the Radioactive Waste Management Complex at the Idaho National Laboratory site. (Photos: DOE)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little, attorney general Lawrence Wasden, Idaho legislators, county and city representatives, and the Department of Energy’s cleanup program management staff gathered at the Idaho National Laboratory site on March 30 to mark the completion of a cleanup project that helps protect the Snake River Plain Aquifer and fulfills a commitment with the State of Idaho.

The work: Buried waste was retrieved from 5.69 acres at INL’s Subsurface Disposal Area (SDA), a 97-acre landfill within the site’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex. The work was completed more than 18 months ahead of schedule, according to the DOE.

Eventually, the soft-sided buildings constructed over the footprint where the waste retrievals took place will be taken down and an earthen cover will be laid over the entire area.

Carl Miller, a worker for Idaho National Laboratory cleanup contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition, identifies the last drum of targeted waste exhumed as part of a cleanup project.

The agreement: The remediation is a requirement of a 2008 agreement with the State of Idaho and a record of decision between the DOE, the state, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The DOE and its contractor are required to remove, repackage, and ship out of state the plutonium filters, graphite molds, sludges, and roasted uranium fines from the SDA, which accepted radioactive and hazardous wastes for shallow burial from 1952 to 1970.

Earlier in March, crews repackaged the final exhumed waste that was required to be removed from the SDA under the 2008 record of decision. More than 10,000 cubic meters of radioactive, hazardous, and potentially pyrophoric wastes were removed from nine areas of the SDA.

The start: The cleanup project officially began in early 2005, when crews were tasked with removing waste from portions of the SDA. Eight subsequent retrieval sub-projects were completed within the 5.69-acre area, as required in the 2008 agreement and record of decision. Crews removed more than 49,500 drums of waste from the SDA in the eight sub-projects.

Quote: The officials at the March 30 gathering thanked the workers at the cleanup site for their safe work performance and dedication to the mission. “This project is a great example of what can be accomplished with dedicated employees, engaged management, a supportive state, and involved stakeholders,” said DOE senior advisor William “Ike” White. “Thank you for your dedication, expertise, and professionalism. Thank you for being accountable to American taxpayers. And most importantly, thank you for protecting the environment and closing this chapter on the Cold War.”

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