IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EM program at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site recently filmed a virtual video tour of its facilities as an alternative to in-person visits.
“The goal was to make this virtual tour as realistic as possible,” said Dana Kirkham, strategic initiatives director for EM cleanup contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition. “We wanted to give those who watched the video the same look they would have if they were actually touring the site.”
A video camera was affixed to an automobile as it navigated roads through the 890-square-mile DOE site. This served to create the impression the viewer was along for the ride.
Before the pandemic, EM conducted more than 40 major INL Site tours per year with environmental interest groups, congressional staffers, Idaho elected officials, interns, foreign nationals and DOE headquarters officials.
Beginning in early 2020, EM curtailed all tours. As the COVID-19 community infection rate dropped, tours were held sparingly.
The tour video shows EM work at the former Fuel Reprocessing Restoration Facility at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC), where workers built a mock-up to simulate the retrieval of radioactive waste known as calcine. They also constructed a system there for actual waste retrieval from storage bins in the Calcined Solids Storage Facility prior to the facility’s closure at INTEC.
Also featured is the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), constructed to process 900,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste into dry granular solids that will be packaged in stainless steel canisters and stored in concrete vaults. The waste was generated during decontamination activities following spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. The IWTU is scheduled to begin radiological operations this fall.
The tour also makes stops at the Idaho CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) Disposal Facility, Radioactive Waste Management Complex, Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project, and planned decontamination and demolition work at the Naval Reactors Facility.
“To physically see the facilities highlighted in the video and work being conducted within each one would take someone an entire day or longer to see,” said Kirkham. “The virtual tour provides the viewer with everything they’d see on an actual tour without the hours of driving, passing through security posts and walking through active operational areas.”
As EM work is completed, the virtual tour video and its script will be updated.
“It’s the next best way to show people our cleanup progress and to keep the public and our employees safe,” said Kirkham.
Click here to watch the virtual tour.
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