You are here

The Radioactive Waste Management Complex (RWMC) is located within the INL, formerly the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS). The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), now the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), established NRTS in 1949 as a site for building and testing various types of nuclear facilities. 

Below is a timeline showing some of the historical events at RWMC. DOE and/or the contractors: 

1952Established RWMC on 13 acres of the INL for the burial and disposal of site-generated radioactive waste 
1954Began receiving wastes from Rocky Flats Colorado and other off-site generators
1957Expanded the burial ground to 86.98 acres; began accommodating large, bulky waste in pit disposal; placed TRU waste in separate pits
1958Constructed flood control project on the Big Lost River, adjacent to burial grounds, and including diversion dam and spreading areas
1960Established 10 monitoring holes drilled into the basalt adjacent to waste-filled excavations (Health Services Laboratory)
1960-1963Adopted procedures for acceptance of shipments and standardized forms 
1962Constructed system of dikes and ditches around the burial ground; constructed a diversion dike for the Big Lost River by diking the spreading area
1963Began random dumping (rather than stacking) of Rocky Flats waste in pits
1966Increased the minimum soil cover over the buried waste from two feet to three feet and the minimum trench depth from three feet to five feet; improved fire protection; instituted requirement to cover waste with soil at the end of each week 
1969Constructed an extensive dike system to protect burial ground from runoff in local drainage basin; reinstituted stacking of Rocky Flats waste
1970Expanded RWMC to 97 acres, 55 of which were added for the Transuranic Storage Area (TSA); discontinued burial of TRU waste and instead stored it above ground on asphalt pads, covered with layers of plywood, plastic and soil; completed diking around the subsurface disposal area (SDA) 
1971Graded the land to provide major drainage channels for surface water; implemented a computerized waste management information system 
1972-1973Formulated an environmental surveillance plan; began sampling small mammals and soil outside the SDA; started burial ground subsurface water monitoring plan; required TRU combustible and noncombustible waste to be packaged separately
1974-1978Began Initial Transuranic Drum Retrieval (IDR) program; removed 20,262 drums of waste from pits 11 and 12, repacked the waste and stored it at the TSA Retrieval Enclosure; placed air support structure over the IDR; completed railroad spur to TSA allowing direct shipment of waste to RWMC; completed second TSA pad; developed and implemented computerized Transuranic-Contaminated Waste Container Information System (TCWCIS) 
1976Constructed and placed in operation the TSA-R pad; started environmental sampling/studies of flora and fauna
1979Initiated removal of basalt in the SDA pits to increase disposal space 
1980Began testing explosive fracturing of basalt in SDA scale-model pit; started disposal of Argonne East low-level waste
1981Initiated first production-scale explosive rock fracturing of basalt in SDA pit 17 and removed 3,900 cubic yards of basalt; began stacking shipments in the Air-supported Weather Shield (AWS-2)
1982Upgraded flood controls after RWMC was flooded by rapid snowmelt
1983Reviewed offsite and onsite packaging criteria and combined into two DOE-ID documents; continued explosive rock fracturing of basalt in SDA pits 18 and 19; removed 30,000 cubic yards of basalt 
1984-1985Began operating the Stored Waste Examination Pilot Plant (SWEPP); implemented use of Geotextile on the bottom of pit floors; continued explosive rock fracturing of basalt in SDA pits 19 and 20; removed 31,500 cubic yards of basalt; developed and began using an automated TRU waste interim tracking system 
1988Postponed the opening of WIPP; as a result, Governor Cecil Andrus ordered Idaho State police to stop any railcars bringing shipments of transuranic waste from Rocky Flats to the INL  
1995Signed the Idaho Settlement Agreement alongside Idaho Governor P. Batt; various agencies began the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility study for the SDA at RWMC
1999Sent the first truckload of TRU waste to WIPP 
2005Began active remediation of transuranic waste 


During active RWMC operations about 241,000 cubic meters of waste were disposed in 21 pits, 58 trenches and 21 soil vault rows (totaling approximately 35 acres).

Current status of remediation work at the RWMC and the future of the RWMC

During active RWMC operations about 241,000 cubic meters of waste were disposed in 21 pits, 58 trenches and 21 soil vault rows (totaling approximately 35 acres).

Work in structures one through seven of the Accelerated Retrieval Project (ARP) has been completed. Retrieval work in ARP VIII is at least 50 percent and ARP IX is under construction. Crews at RWMC have exhumed 4.47 acres of the 5.69 acres required by the 2008 Record of Decision, there are 1.2 acres left to remediate in ARPs VIII and XI. The exhumation should be completed by the conclusion of 2019. The ARP project is nearly two years ahead of the initial projected completion date. Vacuum vapor extraction has removed 246,000 pounds of solvent vapors from beneath the SDA and it continues to operate. In November of last year, RWMC workers completed exhumation of the 7,485 cubic meters of TRU waste required by the Record of Decision. 

The end result for the RWMC after all remediation work is completed will be the installation of a cap, the design for which is in the very early stages.

Click here if you are interested in reading more about RWMC’s history.