Life Of Idaho Nuclear Waste Processing Plant Could Be Extended

Mar 14, 2018

Credit Idaho National Laboratory

The federal government is looking into keeping a treatment facility for nuclear waste in eastern Idaho online longer than previously expected.

Waste treatment operations at the Idaho National Lab were set to wrap up this year. It was going to shut down after it finished processing waste from the state. Now, federal officials are thinking about keeping it open to deal with nuclear waste from around the nation.

The Idaho facility specializes in dealing with material items contaminated with radiation as opposed to eastern Washington’s Hanford facility. That plant mostly handles liquid waste, radioactive and toxic wastes. Eventually, materials that are handled at the facilities are shipped to New Mexico for permanent disposal.

Keeping the plant open to process waste from Washington and other states presents a problem. A 1995 deal with the Energy Department says the agency can only bring so much waste to Idaho – and that has to be treated in six months. It has to be removed from Idaho within six months of being treated.

That agreed upon timeline presents a problem since there’s a backlog at the INL facility from a 2014 contamination incident.

The Department of Energy has been in talks with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden about extending the life of the plant. He’s said he’s open to the idea so long as any plan conforms to the terms of the 1995 agreement.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio