Cell leak delays startup of Idaho’s IWTU

January 19, 2023, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Ten days after beginning a heat-up process to prepare for radiological operations at Idaho’s Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), operators noticed a small leak of nonradioactive, nonhazardous solids in a cell, resulting in the facility’s shutdown in late December, the Department of Energy announced on January 10.

Nonradioactive, nonhazardous, sandlike material, visible in the lower-left corner of this photo, leaked into a cell at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit. (Photo: DOE)

The cell is where treated waste is staged until deposited into stainless steel canisters that are sealed prior to being transferred into concrete vaults for storage. The IWTU is located at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory Site.

At the time, no radioactive waste had yet been introduced into the IWTU. Upon discovering the leak, the facility was shut down. Engineering and operations personnel located the source of the leak in the cell and have begun an evaluation of the cause, after which repairs will be made. Once the repairs are completed, the IWTU will prepare for the start of radiological operations.

The IWTU was constructed from 2007 to 2011 to treat 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste from three underground stainless steel storage tanks at the nearby Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center. The waste was generated during decontamination activities following historic spent nuclear fuel reprocessing runs.


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