US selects new cleanup contractor for Idaho nuclear site

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FILE - In this file photo from May 11, 2015, nuclear waste is stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho.  The US Department of Energy has awarded a new 10-year contract to clean up nuclear waste at its 890 square mile site in Idaho which includes the Idaho National Laboratory.  (AP Photo / Keith Ridler, file)

FILE – In this file photo from May 11, 2015, nuclear waste is stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The US Department of Energy has awarded a new 10-year contract to clean up nuclear waste at its 890 square mile site in Idaho which includes the Idaho National Laboratory. (AP Photo / Keith Ridler, file)

PA

The US Department of Energy has awarded a new $ 6.4 billion contract to clean up nuclear waste from its sprawling Idaho site, which includes a national laboratory that does nuclear research.

The Department of Energy announced Friday that the 10-year contract for the Idaho clean-up project had gone to the Tullahoma, Tennessee-based Idaho Environmental Coalition to replace Fluor Idaho.

A 1995 settlement agreement between the Department of Energy and the state requires nuclear waste to be cleaned up at the site that sits above a giant aquifer providing water to farms and towns across the region.

“The ICP contract illustrates DOE’s commitment to continue supporting a highly skilled and diverse workforce that provides approximately 1,900 jobs that pay prevailing wages in safe and healthy workplaces,” the ministry said. Energy in a press release.

The Department of Energy said it received five proposals and the best value was the Idaho Environmental Coalition, which includes Jacobs Technology Inc. and North Wind Portage. The agency did not name the others who requested the contract.

The 890 square mile (2,300 square kilometer) site is located approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Idaho Falls and includes the Idaho National Laboratory. The lab area sits atop the Lake Erie-sized Snake River Plain aquifer, which began to be contaminated by the nuclear site in 1952, according to a published US Geological Survey report. Last year.

The report says contamination levels, with the exception of a handful of nearly 180 wells, are below acceptable standards for drinking water set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The report cited cleanup efforts at the site as helping to improve the aquifer.

Contamination at the site reached the aquifer through injection wells, uncoated percolation ponds, pits where radioactive material from other states was spilled, and accidental spills. This all happened mainly during the Cold War era, before environmental regulations were put in place.

In 1989, the area was added to the national priority list for uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, becoming a Superfund site. The 1995 settlement leading to the clean-up of the site followed a series of legal battles between Idaho and the Department of Energy over fears the state could become a nuclear waste dump.

One of the main cleanup goals is to convert 900,000 gallons of liquid nuclear waste stored in tanks into more manageable solid waste. The Department of Energy initially had a 2012 deadline to do so. It built the integrated waste treatment unit at a cost of around $ 600 million to convert the liquid waste, but has so far encountered problems and has not been able to convert the waste.

The missed deadline, which has been extended several times, means the Energy Department is violating the 1995 agreement. Penalties include fines and bans from entering the state for fuel research quantities. nuclear spent.

Scientists at Idaho National Laboratory say they need this spent fuel research to help create the next generation of safer commercial nuclear reactors that could help fight global warming.



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