A robotic arm, shown in yellow at center, undergoes testing at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site to remove contamination from stainless steel canisters containing a treated waste product.
A robotic arm, shown in yellow at center, undergoes testing at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site to remove contamination from stainless steel canisters containing a treated waste product.

IDAHO FALLS, IdahoEM and its new Idaho Cleanup Project contractor are tackling a full slate of work at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site this year, including treating and shipping waste out of state, starting radiological operations at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) and planning for significant construction and demolition projects.

Waste management personnel are set to soon complete the disposition of exhumed waste at the Accelerated Retrieval Project (ARP) IX facility. Following that project, EM and the Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC) plan to dismantle the remaining five ARP structures in place, allowing for construction of an earthen cover that will eventually cap the entire 97-acre Subsurface Disposal Area. With more than 250,000 planned dump truck loads of soil and gravel, it will be the largest construction project in the INL Site history.

“We look forward to safely fulfilling our contractual commitments,” IEC President Ty Blackford said. “We’ve long said we couldn’t be successful without the support of our communities and state officials.”

EM crews are also scheduled to complete the treatment of sludge waste this year that was shipped from the former Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado to the INL Site from the 1950s until the 1980s. Following treatment, the waste will be shipped out of state for permanent disposal.

Engineers and operators are heating the IWTU to resume its 50-day confirmatory run to test new ceramic filters and robotic arms designed to decontaminate stainless steel product canisters, and to practice radiological operations to prepare for the start of sodium-bearing waste treatment. The IWTU was constructed to treat approximately 900,000 gallons of that waste remaining from a nearby tank farm at the INL Site that accepted rinse water and other effluents from historic spent nuclear fuel reprocessing runs at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC).

At the INTEC, fuel handlers continue to transfer spent nuclear fuel from wet to dry storage in compliance with the Idaho Settlement Agreement, which governs cleanup at the site. Crews will also transfer fuel from first-generation dry storage vaults to second-generation dry storage vaults to minimize the potential for hydrogen generation and fuel corrosion.

Nearby, engineers with EM’s calcine retrieval project continue testing equipment that will eventually be used to retrieve and transfer calcine. Workers will move 220 cubic meters of the dried, granulated high-level waste from the first calcine storage bin built onsite to another bin set. The bin set emptied of calcine will then be closed under federal regulations. Calcine is a dried byproduct of the legacy spent nuclear fuel reprocessing mission at the INTEC.

Under the Idaho Settlement Agreement, EM is required to retrieve, treat, repackage and prepare 4,400 cubic meters of calcine to ship for out-of-state disposal by 2035. The material is in storage in six separate bin sets inside concrete vaults at an INTEC facility.

Also this year, closure activities continue at the largest building at the INL Site — the Transuranic Storage Area Retrieval Enclosure. The seven-acre building will be first of two buildings to be closed at the INL Site’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex under federal law.