INL finishes waste pad removal project

August 2, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Work crews use light construction equipment to remove the final pieces of asphalt from one of the pads at the TSA-RE at INL. (Photo: DOE)

The Idaho National Laboratory is moving closer toward closing its largest building—which, at more than 316,000 square feet, could comfortably house a modern U.S. aircraft carrier, according to the Department of Energy.

Crews removed more than 15 million pounds of asphalt from the TSA-RE to allow for closure of the pads project under federal regulations. (Photo: DOE)

The DOE’s Office of Environmental Management and contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition were notified recently that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality considers two asphalt pads at the Transuranic Storage Area–Retrieval Enclosure (TSA-RE) building site officially closed following the completion of required work under the facility’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) interim operating permit.

The two pads represent more than half of the seven-acre TSA-RE site. Closure means the pads can no longer be used for waste storage and do not require additional remediation.

History: The TSA-RE pads received waste from DOE sites—primarily the former Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colo.—from 1970 to the late 1980s. Waste was stored outside on the pads and covered with clean soil.

The TSA-RE, a metal-framed building with metal siding constructed over the pads that held the massive waste-storage mounds, was put up to allow for retrieval of the waste from the pads for treatment at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) treatment facility. The TSA-RE is part of the AMWTP complex.

In the lead-up to official closure of the pads, crews removed more than 15 million pounds of asphalt, filling 860 waste containers.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Dave Martin, AMWTP operations director. “It’s a proud, yet bittersweet, time for the folks who have invested so much of their careers at AMWTP.”

Notes: Although the two pads constitute the majority of the TSA-RE building’s footprint, waste destined for the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant or other off-site repositories is stored on a remaining pad permitted under a different RCRA permit and overseen by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

DOE-EM plans to demolish the TSA-RE building once it is empty. Crews will then tear down other buildings and structures at the AMWTP. The entire AMWTP area is scheduled to be closed near the end of this decade.

About INL: Fifty-two nuclear reactors have been built and operated on INL’s 890-square-mile site since 1949. The lab’s contributions to the nuclear energy industry include the first usable electricity generated by nuclear power, the first city powered by atomic energy, and the first nuclear propulsion systems for U.S. Navy submarines and aircraft carriers.

According to the DOE, more than 300 commercial nuclear power reactors operating around the world trace their roots to INL. The lab’s scientists and engineers work daily to advance nuclear energy technology, including on small modular reactors and microreactors and by leading the nation’s Versatile Test Reactor program.

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