Office of Environmental Management

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Emphasizes Importance of Cleanup at Site Visits

May 17, 2017

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry addresses the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant workforce following a visit to the New Mexico facility.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry addresses the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant workforce following a visit to the New Mexico facility.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant employees discuss waste emplacement operations with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center, while inside the facility 2,150 feet underground.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant employees discuss waste emplacement operations with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center, while inside the facility 2,150 feet underground.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry highlights the importance of DOE missions during a meeting for employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, including EM Los Alamos Field Office staff, on May 10. Photo courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry highlights the importance of DOE missions during a meeting for employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, including EM Los Alamos Field Office staff, on May 10. Photo courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) Operations Project Manager Craig Olson, left, discusses IWTU operation issues with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, right, and Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, center.

Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) Operations Project Manager Craig Olson, left, discusses IWTU operation issues with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, right, and Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, center.

Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) Operations Project Manager Craig Olson, right, discusses a newly redesigned component of the IWTU with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center right; Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, center left; and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho), left.

Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) Operations Project Manager Craig Olson, right, discusses a newly redesigned component of the IWTU with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center right; Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, center left; and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho), left.

Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, left, describes Integrated Waste Treatment Unit operations to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes, left, describes Integrated Waste Treatment Unit operations to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry stressed the significance of DOE’s cleanup efforts in remarks to EM employees in recent visits to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), Idaho Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

   “You make a difference,” Secretary Perry said on May 11 to about 500 federal and contractor employees gathered outside WIPP, the nation’s only geological repository for nuclear waste. “What you do affects not just the country but the rest of the world.”

   Waste shipments to WIPP resumed in April 2017 after years of work to recover the facility following a truck fire and an unrelated radiological event in early 2014 that suspended operations. 

   Secretary Perry noted that being the Governor of Texas was his favorite job, but serving as Secretary of Energy is by far the coolest position he’s held.

   In a tour of the WIPP underground, Secretary Perry received an update on the resumption of waste emplacement operations and viewed a demonstration of the waste handling equipment, supplemental ventilation system, and new rock bolting equipment. He was briefed on upcoming mining activities necessary to create additional disposal panels for waste emplacement. 

   Secretary Perry also spoke to hundreds of employees at DOE’s Idaho and Los Alamos national laboratories. Secretary Perry highlighted the importance of cleaning up legacy nuclear waste during the LANL meeting, which included EM's Los Alamos Field Office staff.

   On the first of two days at the Idaho Site, Secretary Perry toured the 53,000-square-foot Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), which is currently undergoing testing. The IWTU is intended to treat an estimated 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste remaining in the site's underground tank farm.   

   U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Navy Adm. James Caldwell, who leads the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, accompanied Secretary Perry. EM Idaho Cleanup Project Contractor Fluor Idaho Program Manager Fred Hughes and IWTU Operations Project Manager Craig Olson conducted the briefing and tour. 

   They entered the IWTU’s control room and talked about a recent demonstration in which the plant treated more than 18,000 gallons of material simulating the tank farm waste. In recent tests, a newly redesigned component of the facility operated successfully. That component, the auger-grinder, breaks up clustered material and transfers treated waste product to the waste canister filling system.

   The briefing covered testing of a scaled model of the IWTU’s primary waste treatment vessel at Hazen Research near Golden, Colorado. The testing intends to resolve fluidization and chemistry challenges discovered in previous IWTU demonstrations. See the related story on the IWTU in this issue.

   Another demonstration is scheduled this summer to confirm that the fluidization and chemistry issues are cleared, following testing of fluidization components at Hazen and their installation in the primary waste treatment vessel.