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Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage ahead of schedule, to be used again

For decades, the INL housed spent nuclear fuel in a large water basin in Building CPP-666 at the Idaho Nuclear Technical and Engineering Center in Arco. Last week, it successfully completed the transfer of all spent nuclear fuel to dry storage. Learn more about INTEC and other aspects of the INL in the video above. | Photo and video provided by the Idaho Environmental Coalition
ARCO – The Idaho National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Idaho is celebrating the completion of a major milestone.
Last week, the INL announced it had successfully transferred all spent nuclear fuel from Experimental Breeder Reactor II from wet to dry storage.
During a celebratory event at the Idaho Nuclear Technical and Engineering Center (INTEC) in Arco on Tuesday afternoon, INL Director John Wagner, William “Ike” White with the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, Idaho Gov. Brad Little and others congratulated the team of more than 600 people for completing it nine months ahead of schedule.
The project also led to the recovery of uranium products, which are now being processed “to turn what would’ve been waste materials into fuel for new advanced reactors on this site.”
“Repurposing what was considered waste, which was originally being processed to be disposed of, to meet an urgent need related to advanced reactor demonstration and deployment (is a big deal),” Wagner told those in attendance. “I don’t think the community … realizes how much has been accomplished.”

INL Director John Wagner addressing INTEC and Idaho Environmental Coalition during a celebratory event in Arco on Tuesday afternoon. | Rett Nelson,
INTEC reprocessed spent nuclear fuel from the 1950s through 1992. Since 1995, it’s been stored inside a large water basin on site. This posed a concern to state officials because of its potential threat to the environment and people’s health.
Erik Simpson with the Idaho Environmental Coalition, which manages INTEC, said the Snake River Aquifer flows 220 feet below the ground surface at the north end of the INL site.
In response to these concerns, the state of Idaho filed a lawsuit against the federal government “to prevent Idaho from becoming a dumping ground for the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel.” In October 1995, the state, the U.S. Navy and the DOE reached a settlement that required several actions. One of those requirements was to transfer spent nuclear fuel from wet storage to dry storage.
The deadline for its completion was Dec. 31, 2023.
“Accomplishing something ahead of schedule is an amazing (achievement), given the complexity of INL’s spent nuclear fuel inventory and the amount of collaboration and coordination required,” Kathy Huff, an assistant secretary for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, said at Tuesday’s event. “These kinds of accomplishments demonstrate the real dedication of our INL and Idaho Cleanup Project employees.”

IEC and INTEC employees pose for a photo after successful completion of wet to dry storage. | Courtesy IEC
Another requirement of the settlement was to prevent shipments of spent nuclear fuel to the INL for permanent storage.
The fuel will now be temporarily put in dry storage in another facility at INTEC. It will be shipped to a permanent repository once a location has been identified. It’s not clear when the permanent location will be determined.
“The next group of efforts … is tailored toward getting fuel road ready, which includes putting it into a road-ready canister that would be capable of going to a repository when one opens,” says William Kirby, senior director for liquid waste at IEC.
Under the terms of the agreement, the DOE has until 2035 to treat “all high-level waste” and ship it to its permanent location.
RELATED | Officials celebrate cleanup of radioactive waste at INL complex
Last year, the INL celebrated the exhumation of 5.69 acres of transuranic waste materials at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex near Arco. The waste included rubber gloves, personal protective equipment, test tubes and other items that had been contaminated through the processing of radioactive materials over the years. Removing various forms of transuranic waste from Idaho is another requirement of the Idaho Settlement Agreement.
Little told Tuesday’s crowd these achievements “would not have been possible” without the vision and foresight of former Gov. Phil Batt.
“He and others helped finalize the 1995 settlement agreement, which plotted a path for the removal of transuranic waste, high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel,” said Little. “I want to thank everyone associated with the spent nuclear fuel wet-to-dry project for keeping Governor Phil Batt’s legacy alive and the Idaho Settlement Agreement relevant to this day.”
RELATED | ‘He was a titan in Idaho politics’: Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt dies
The post Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage ahead of schedule, to be used again appeared first on East Idaho News.

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