Idaho Nuclear Waste Treatment Facility Making Progress

Published on: 16 July 2022
by KnowESG
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A nuclear waste treatment facility in eastern Idaho designed to treat 900,000 gallons (3.4 million litres) of sodium-containing radioactive waste appears to be making headway despite repeated setbacks.

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at the department's 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) facility, which includes the Idaho National Laboratory, recently handled more than 100,000 gallons (380,000 litres) of simulant over seven weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The plant has operated extremely well during this several-week run,” Bill Kirby of the Idaho Environmental Coalition, an Energy Department contractor, said in a statement. “Our staff has done an outstanding job managing all facets of the facility.”

To ensure that the facility is ready to accept radioactive waste, the government will conduct more tests and then shut it down. 

When the facility is fully operational, increasing amounts of radioactive waste will be combined with simulant, according to the department. 

Since its inception, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit has been plagued by issues as scientists have battled to solve the extremely complex task of transforming liquid waste into a more manageable granulated solid. 

The liquid waste resulted from recovering highly enriched uranium from spent nuclear fuel. The trash is contained in tanks above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, a water source for communities and farmers.

As stated in a 1995 agreement that was the culmination of a series of federal litigation, the department is paying Idaho fines for missing a deadline to turn liquid waste into solid material.

Due to the missing deadline, Idaho is barring the department from transporting spent nuclear material to the facility for research purposes.

If the treatment plant is successful, the granulated waste will be held at the facility in stainless steel canisters housed in concrete vaults, which will eventually be disposed of at a national geologic repository. However, no such repository exists now.

Source: Cache Valley Daily.com

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