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

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit just finished a 50-day test run, its longest yet.

The facility at the U.S. Department of Energy desert site west of Idaho Falls was supposed to have treated 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste years ago, but has been delayed due to technical problems, causing DOE to miss milestones for the 1995 Settlement Agreement between Idaho and DOE that sets deadlines for waste removal.

DOE’s noncompliance led Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to block a shipment of spent research fuel to Idaho National Laboratory in 2016. The IWTU has been doing demonstration runs since late summer 2018 to make sure it can process the waste safely.

In this latest run, Fluor Idaho crews treated more than 62,000 gallons of a non-radioactive simulant mimicking the type of waste it will treat, according to a news release from Fluor, DOE’s cleanup contractor. The trial runs test the plant’s ability to recover from off-normal events such as temperature and pressure variations, and provide data to help finalize remaining environmental permits and confirm the plant’s operating conditions. The plant will now go through a several-month outage to make final changes to prepare to process waste, Fluor said.

In the demonstration last summer, the IWTU converted more than 53,000 gallons of liquid simulant into a dry, granular solid using steam reforming technology and proved that modifications to the main reaction vessel had been successful, Fluor said.

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

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