Office of Environmental Management

Idaho Site Hot Cell Renovations Allow for Expanded Transuranic Waste Processing

January 23, 2018

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Workers fabricated a port cover actuator mechanism to allow operators to open and close the hot cell’s hatch cover with a cordless drill.
Workers fabricated a port cover actuator mechanism to allow operators to open and close the hot cell’s hatch cover with a cordless drill.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Workers at EM’s Idaho Site recently renovated a hot cell to expand waste processing capabilities to a second facility and further protect personnel from high radiological fields.

   EM cleanup contractor Fluor-Idaho, LLC and three eastern Idaho small businesses completed the changes to the cell in the New Waste Calcining Facility at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center.

   The renovations allow operators to dispose of waste from onsite reactor programs from the 1960s through the 2000s, supporting EM’s commitment with the state of Idaho.

   “This was a challenging renovation,” said Fluor-Idaho System Engineer Royce Tyler. “But it was worthwhile because it greatly expands the capabilities of this hot cell and extends its life by decades.”

   The types of remote-handled transuranic (RH-TRU) waste to be treated and repackaged in the cell include activated metals, graphite, uranium and plutonium fuel pieces, and sodium. The waste must be remotely handled and placed in the cell because of its high radiation levels. Previously, only a hot cell at a former Idaho Site spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility was used for remote handling of waste, but modifications to this cell allow for expanded RH-TRU processing.

   Portage, Inc. designed the cell’s new hatch covers and porthole covers. Diversified Metal Products fabricated the hatch covers for easier entry of waste transportation cans and easier exit of drums. Premier Technology built the power-operated port cover, which workers installed over the hatch cover. Premier also manufactured the port cover actuator mechanism, which allows operators to open and close the cell’s hatch cover with a cordless drill, an innovative solution in the event the building loses power while the hatch cover is open. 

   Workers installed a 2-ton waste container hoist and other equipment to contain contamination when waste enters or exits the cell. They also added energy-efficient lighting, utilities, digital camera system, drum tipper and rollers, cutting station to open the containers, “dose cave” to obtain dose counts on drums prior to removal from the cell, repackaging station for opening containers of sodium-contaminated waste in an oxygen-free environment, and other improvements. 

   Fluor-Idaho will test the new hatch covers this month, with actual waste processing to follow.

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