The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board plans to hold a public hearing by May to discuss an April 2018 accident at the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory in which four drums of radioactive sludge overheated and blew off their lids.
Three of the four DNFSB members voted on Dec. 12 to hold a hearing in Washington, D.C., with acting Chairman Bruce Hamilton abstaining.
The accident is worthy of further investigation, Hamilton wrote in his published comments. “Whether that hearing is best accomplished in Washington, DC instead of in Idaho is questionable. I therefore defer to the preferences of my fellow Board Members. I therefore abstain.”
While the DNFSB has no enforcement power over the Energy Department, it can make safety recommendations to the energy secretary, who must then publicly agree or disagree with the board’s remedy.
Fluor Idaho has essentially finished recovery operations following the April 11 incident during sludge packaging at Room 106 of Waste Management Facility-1617 at INL’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex.
In an October analysis, the company concluded waste inside the 55-gallon drums overheated to about 150 degrees Celsius after depleted uranium contacted air for the first time in years. The waste originally came from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver, and had been buried on-site at INL for decades.