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Fluor Idaho crews have removed all but .69 acres of hazardous waste from the Radioactive Waste Management Complex.

The complex, at the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site west of Idaho Falls, contains radioactive waste that was generated during nuclear weapons production at the former Rocky Flats Plant near Denver and buried there from 1954 to 1970. Fluor has been digging up waste at the site since 2005 and crews recently finished exhuming waste from a five-acre area of the complex, the cleanup contractor said in a news release Monday.

“With each buried waste exhumation project — eight to date — our crews have applied their waste management experience, as well as additional worker protection measures, to become even more efficient,” said Fluor Idaho Manager Jason Chapple.

After the waste is dug up, workers repackage it and ship it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M. for permanent disposal.

The most recent exhumation campaign took place in a 1.72-acre enclosure over two pits that were the first areas used to dispose of the Rocky Flats waste in the 1950s. Using specially modified heavy equipment, crews took out radioactive filters and molds, solidified sludge containing radioactive and hazardous materials and a reactive uranium material called “roaster oxides.”

Once the waste is removed from the remaining area over the course of this year, the landfill will be covered with several feet of gravel and soil as part of a cap spanning more than 130 acres. The goal, Fluor said, is to prevent rain and snow from passing through the remaining waste and into the East Snake Plain Aquifer beneath it.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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