The contractor in charge of cleanup at the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls has resumed work that was suspended after a drum of radioactive sludge ruptured in April.
Fluor Idaho, which manages the Idaho Cleanup Project, has finished the safety review it launched after the April rupture and its workers have started again to exhume buried Cold War weapons waste at the Accelerated Retrieval Project VIII facility, Fluor said in a news release.
Exhumation and repackaging were halted after an April 11 incident in which four 55-gallon waste drums ruptured at the nearby Accelerated Retrieval Project V site due to excessive pressure in them. This led to a temporary shutdown of the facility as well as a temporary suspension of shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M. No one was in the facility when the drums ruptured and contamination was confined to the building. Cleanup of the building continues.
Fluor said it has “revised the waste exhumation and repackaging process with additional controls to mitigate the risk of a similar event,” including raking and monitoring the temperature of exhumed sludge before repackaging it.
The 177-acre Radioactive Waste Management Complex is located in the desert 55 miles west of Idaho Falls. The barrels in question contain a mix of fluids and solvents that came from nuclear weapons production during the Cold War at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Idaho agreed in 2008 to remove 5.7 acres of buried waste in the area and ship it out of the state for permanent disposal, and Fluor said the overall exhumation is ahead of schedule. Removal of waste from Accelerated Retrieval Project VIII is 89.5 percent complete, Fluor said, after which it will remove waste buried at the nearby Accelerated Retrieval Project IX facility.