Stainless steel containers and pipes in a facility room

EM management, Integrated Waste Treatment Unit employees and others signed the first stainless steel canister prior to crews filling it with sodium-bearing waste and simulant last spring. Once filled, that canister and others were placed in a concrete vault for storage.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The commencement of radiological operations at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) was a pivotal success for EM last year.

It also provided DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) a key to continued achievements as well.

In a 2011 agreement with the State of Idaho, once IWTU operators filled a single stainless steel canister with treated sodium-bearing waste, INL could receive research-quantities of spent nuclear fuel from the Byron Generating Station in Illinois. That shipment of spent fuel arrived in late December at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex.

During its initial radiological operations run, IWTU treated more than 68,000 gallons of liquid waste, or about 8% of the total volume of the tank waste at the INL Site. That treated waste was placed in stainless steel canisters and is being stored at IWTU.

Based on the 2011 agreement with the state — called the 2011 Memorandum of Agreement Concerning Receipt, Storage, and Handling of Research Quantities of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory — once 100 canisters of treated waste were filled, the INL could receive additional quantities of spent fuel for research.

That accomplishment — an EM 2023 priority — was recognized in a December letter from Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Raúl Labrador to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

“Congratulations to the hardworking men and women who have yet again demonstrated their commitment to process 900,000 gallons of liquid sodium bearing waste at the Idaho National Laboratory,” the letter says.

DOE Idaho Operations Office Idaho Cleanup Project (ICP) Manager Connie Flohr praised employees with EM's INL Site cleanup contractor, Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC), whose work made receipt of the additional research fuel possible.

“We’ve always said that our cleanup mission success creates important nuclear energy research opportunities at the INL, and this is proof positive,” said Flohr. “I want to thank the governor and attorney general for recognizing the achievements of our highly skilled EM employees.”

IEC President Ty Blackford agreed.

“Everyone associated with the IWTU has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the facility and its mission,” he said. “I appreciate the officials of the State of Idaho in their acknowledgement of this achievement and to them, the INL and NE for their unwavering support and trust in the ICP in this important endeavor.”

Crews are preparing to resume operations at IWTU following a maintenance outage that concluded Jan. 20. They have begun activities to prepare for system heatup, which is expected to take place this month along with system conditioning. EM currently forecasts returning to radiological sodium-bearing liquid waste processing in early March.

-Contributor: Erik Simpson