Morning Briefing - April 24, 2019
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April 24, 2019

Energy Department’s Idaho Waste Plant Liability Approaches $6 Million

By ExchangeMonitor

By the end of April, the state of Idaho will have assessed $5.86 million in total penalties against the Department of Energy for failure to start operating the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at the Idaho National Laboratory years ago.

But DOE and contractor Fluor Idaho are doing their third extended test run of the facility using a waste simulant, Natalie Creed, hazardous waste unit manager at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), said by email Tuesday. Startup of the facility could end the daily fees from the state.

“They will need to successfully complete simulant run #3 and make any necessary resulting changes, and then also successfully complete a system performance test prior to initiating routine radiological operations,” Creed said.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management’s deputy manager for the Idaho Cleanup Project, Jack Zimmerman, told the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) last month that problems have been resolved with the key piece of equipment that converts liquid waste into a dry granular solid.

“The focus has been to resolve technical issues to get the plant operational,” according to Zimmerman’s slides.

Idaho is penalizing DOE based on a 1992 noncompliance consent order, which sprang from a 1995 settlement on nuclear waste storage at INL between Idaho, the Energy Department, and the U.S. Navy. The agreement said sodium bearing-waste at INL should be treated by 2012.

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit is supposed to treat 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid radioactive and hazardous waste now stored in stainless steel tanks. Construction wrapped up in 2012, but the facility has never worked as planned.

The Energy Department has already worked off more than $2 million in fines by doing supplemental environmental projects for the state. The federal agency will present the state with its latest proposal for such projects by the end of May.