A waste retrieval facility constructed over a former buried radioactive waste disposal cell known as Pit 9 at the Idaho site has been repurposed for treating 6,000 drums of sludge waste left over from the Cold War weapons program.
Workers review procedure for the sludge repack project.
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – A waste retrieval facility constructed over a former buried radioactive waste disposal cell, known as Pit 9, at the Idaho site has been repurposed for treating 6,000 drums of sludge waste left over from the Cold War weapons program.
The Accelerated Retrieval Project-V (ARP) facility — a steel-framed, fabric building — was originally constructed in 2010 over Pit 9. In January 2011, the main Idaho site cleanup contractor, CH2M-WG Idaho (CWI), began removing targeted radioactive and hazardous waste buried since 1969. CWI completed the cleanup of Pit 9 in August 2011, a year ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget.
“We are very pleased with the results of the partnering between the EM Idaho Cleanup Project, and our two cleanup contractors. This innovative approach uses existing resources to repackage and ship waste out of Idaho in compliance with the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement”, said Mark Brown, Assistant Manager for the EM Idaho Cleanup Project. That agreement between the state of Idaho, DOE, and the U.S. Navy requires DOE to safely remove transuranic waste from the Radioactive Waste Management Complex. The two cleanup contractors are CWI and the Idaho Treatment Group.
Following a request from DOE, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality recently issued a permit for the ARP-V facility to store and treat waste generated at the former Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colo. That waste had been shipped to Idaho after 1970 for above-ground disposal.
Stored on a pad and covered with soil for more than 30 years, the waste was not allowed to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for permanent disposal because it contained small amounts of liquid from sludge containing both carbon tetrachloride and plutonium.
All 6,000 drums are being opened by specially designed excavators where operators wear protective clothing with supplied air. A liquid-absorbing material is being added to the waste prior to repackaging and shipping certification.
Using the ARP-V facility saved the Department as much as $20 million over the cost of constructing a new storage and treatment facility compliant with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The project, managed by CWI, is expected to take 18 months to complete.