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DOE Clears Way for Closure of Emptied Waste Tanks at Idaho National Laboratory

November 20, 2006 - 9:25am

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Secretary Bodman Signs Idaho Waste Determination After Consultation with NRC

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman yesterday signed a waste determination for the Idaho Tank Farm Facility clearing the way for the Department of Energy (DOE) to safely and permanently close the 15 waste storage tanks at the Idaho National Laboratory near Arco, Idaho.  DOE will begin grouting the first 11 cleaned and emptied tanks at Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) and plans to complete all 15 tanks by December 2012.

Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management James Rispoli also signed an amended Record of Decision (ROD) implementing the Secretary's Section 3116 Determination.  These actions follow extensive environmental analysis, public review and comment, and consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and State of Idaho over the past three years.  The determination affirms that DOE's plans to fill and cap emptied tanks with a concrete grouting are protective of human health and the environment.

"We are committed to ensuring the protection of public health and the environment here in Idaho and across the DOE complex," Assistant Secretary Rispoli said.  "We have worked extensively with the State of Idaho and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and conducted comprehensive environmental and technical analysis to determine a path forward for the safe closure of these tanks."

Section 3116 of the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 authorizes the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the NRC, to determine that highly radioactive waste in tanks has been removed to the maximum extent practical and the remaining residual material can be safely disposed of in place.  Consistent with the Secretary's determination, the amended ROD outlines DOE's plans to safely close the tanks in accordance with the Idaho High-Level Waste and Facilities Disposition Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0287) issued in October 2002.

DOE will use a phased approach to close the 15 tanks at INTEC.  DOE will close the first 11 cleaned and emptied tanks (seven 300,000-gallon and four 30,000-gallon tanks) by October 2008.  In these tanks, many areas of the tank bottom are bare, while some areas have a thin film of material that is approximately 3/8 inch deep.  Closure of the remaining four 300,000 gallon tanks, which still contain about 900,000 gallons of liquid waste, will begin once the tanks are emptied and cleaned.  Closure is planned for completion by December 2012.

Safe closure of the tanks includes cleaning the tank components, and then filling them with a grout material to encapsulate any remaining residual waste in place and put these tank farm structures in a condition which ensures long-term stability.

The draft Section 3116 Determination for the Tank Farm Facility was prepared by DOE and submitted to NRC in September 2005.  At that time, DOE posted the draft Determination for public review and comment.  NRC completed their consultation and issued a Technical Evaluation Report to DOE on October 20, 2006 supporting the Section 3116 Determination.

To read the Section 3116 Idaho Waste Determination and the amended ROD, access http://www.em.doe.gov/stakepages/wmdi_idaho.aspx.

Media contact(s):

Megan Barnett, (202) 586-4940
Alan Jines, (208) 526-7524

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