INL Integrated Waste Treatment Unit

Construction on the 53,000-square-foot Integrated Waste Treatment Unit started in 2007.

The state of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy have reached a deal that could allow the resumption of shipments of spent research fuel to Idaho National Laboratory, writes Post Register reporter Nathan Brown. Under the agreement, which could end years of impasse, INL would get a one-time waiver to receive 25 commercial power spent nuclear fuel rods, weighing about 100 pounds in total, from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois. However, before this could happen, DOE would have to prove its ability to treat the 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste being stored at DOE’s desert site west of Idaho Falls in tanks above the East Snake Plain Aquifer by successfully producing one full canister of dry treated waste.

After years of delay, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit started to hold test runs on simulant there in fall 2018, Brown reports.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said, “This is just a big deal for Idaho to do things, that’s, A, get the waste out of our state that was talked about in the ’95 (settlement) agreement and B, continue to advance the mission of the lab to be the premier nuclear research facility not only in the United States but in the world. Those are both good things for Idaho.”

Little said that, from his talks with DOE and with Fluor Idaho, the contractor that runs the Idaho Cleanup Project, he expects IWTU to be able to start treating waste sometime in 2020, possibly in late winter or early spring and definitely by the end of that year.

“They have a real incentive to do this and to do it right, because if you start it and have to shut it off, that just costs them a lot of money,” Little said.

DOE also would have to agree that at least 55 percent of all future transuranic waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., come from the Idaho site; to remove at least 300 pounds of plutonium, uranium or enriched uranium from the state by the end of 2021; and to treat at least 165 pounds of sodium-bonded EBR II driver fuel pins into material for high assay low enriched uranium fuel production each year until all pins have been treated, no later than the end of 2028.

You can read Brown's full report here at

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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