Office of Environmental Management

Building Proves Its Worth for Idaho Site Waste Repackaging Mission

August 17, 2017

You are here

Workers conduct macro encapsulation to treat waste inside the soft-sided building.
Workers conduct macro encapsulation to treat waste inside the soft-sided building.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Workers at DOE’s Idaho Site have safely increased waste repackaging production thanks to the use of a soft-sided building originally constructed for maintenance of the spent nuclear fuel storage basin water filtration system.

   Since early 2016, workers at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center have used macro encapsulation bags (macro bags) to treat secondary waste generated from repackaging sludge at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex. During the macro encapsulation process, waste boxes are wrapped in three layers of tightly cinched plastic to create an impermeable seal between the waste and the disposal environment. This mixed low-level waste (MLLW) is sent offsite for permanent disposal. 

   Macro encapsulation has resulted in significant taxpayer savings. Historically, this waste required treatment at an offsite facility, which could cost over $4,700 per cubic meter. Using a macro bag onsite reduces the cost to about $1,800 per cubic meter resulting in a $2.1 million minimum cost savings to date.

EM workers now use this building for macro encapsulation.
EM workers now use this building for macro encapsulation.

 

   Originally, macro encapsulation took place outside in the heat of summer and frigid temperatures of winter and early spring. With an increase of MLLW requiring treatment, EM sought an indoor alternative for workers to treat the waste. The 3,000-square-foot, soft-sided building seemed like the perfect solution. Built in 2015, the structure had supported the resin replacement project for the spent nuclear fuel storage basin.

   But there was a hitch. EM transferred ownership of the building to DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) for use by contractor Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), which manages DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. While the paperwork for the transfer was complete, BEA hadn’t yet relocated the building. NE returned ownership to EM to support macro encapsulation.   

 

   Workers performed maintenance to ensure the building could support treatment. Idaho Cleanup Project contractor Fluor Idaho modified its permit with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to allow for the building's new purpose. 

   Workers treated 284 90-cubic-foot boxes of MLLW debris in the building from early March to late July.