Project to clear radioactive waste completed at Idaho site

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2017 2:37 PM

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A 17-year project to clear radioactive waste at a buried airplane-hangar like structure in Idaho has been completed.

The waste included contaminated tools, machinery, clothing and sludge that came to Idaho in the 1970s and '80s mostly from a now closed plant near Denver that was used to build nuclear weapon parts.

Last week, contractor Fluor Idaho retrieved the last box of radioactive materials from the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project near Idaho Falls, The Post Register reported (http://bit.ly/2mO4TNj ).

The project to dig out the decades-old waste has been underway since 2003.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Thursday congratulated workers for their completion of the process. In all, 65,000 cubic meters of transuranic waste stored in hundreds of thousands of containers had to be moved out of the facility.

Transuranic waste involves products contaminated with matter that has a higher atomic number than uranium.

"There was never a doubt that we could do it; the only question was nobody knew how the hell we were going to do it. And you all figured that out," Otter said. "You set a standard for the United States — for the world."

Containers near the top of the waste stack at the facility were in good shape when excavation began in 2003. Boxes and drums near the bottom of the pile were not structurally sound and required special tools to retrieve.

Recently retrieved waste now awaits treatment at the plant. The waste containers will be opened, with contents sorted and compacted before being shipped to a facility in New Mexico.

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Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com