- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - A glitch-prone treatment facility in eastern Idaho has successfully completed a major test in which radioactive liquid waste was converted to solid form, federal officials say.

The U.S. Department of Energy said workers ran 58,000 gallons of a test liquid through the $571 million Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at the Idaho National Laboratory.

“The team is extremely excited about the fact that we’ve demonstrated that this process actually can work,” Curtis Roth, an agency deputy manager who oversees the treatment unit, told the Post Register (http://www.postregister.com/node/72002) in a story on Monday.

Roth made the comments at a recent meeting of the Idaho National Laboratory Site Environmental Management Citizens Advisory Board.

Roth said the test demonstrated that the process of turning 900,000 gallons of radioactive waste into a solid form can work. The high-level radioactive waste came from processing spent nuclear fuel from U.S. Navy ships and is stored in tanks at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Earlier this month, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality said it would fine the Department of Energy $3,600 a day for missing a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the waste from the 50-year-old tanks.

The fear is that nuclear waste could seep into the huge Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer that provides water to much of the agriculture industry in the state.

The nuclear facility also has a second violation concerning a 1995 agreement Idaho made with the federal agency. It involves waste that is now stuck in an Idaho underground nuclear repository because a site in southern New Mexico is not taking shipments of low-level waste due to recent mishaps.

Last week, former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus said current Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is turning the state into a nuclear waste repository by recently allowing the Department of Energy to bring 50 spent nuclear fuel rods into the Idaho National Laboratory for research.

The research could bring up to $20 million a year for about five years to the lab, federal officials said.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said the deal provides an incentive for the Department of Energy to abide by the 1995 agreement and remove nuclear waste from the facility. Those efforts are currently at a standstill.

If the federal agency doesn’t take action to meet its obligation under the 1995 agreement, the state won’t allow the 50 spent fuels rods into Idaho, Wasden said.

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

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