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Environment

Deal Reached On Idaho Lab Cleanup

July 14, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 28

The state of Idaho and the Department of Energy have struck a $2.6 billion agreement in which DOE will dig up and remove more than 7,485 m3 of radioactive and chemical wastes from the Idaho National Laboratory reservation. The waste includes transuranic elements (mostly plutonium), uranium, and volatile organic compounds that were generated through the nation's nuclear weapons program and commercial reactor research and dumped in unlined pits between 1952 and 1970. It will be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The deal will resolve a dispute between DOE and the state over a cleanup agreement reached in 1995. In all, some 36,000 m3 of waste has been dumped at the lab. According to the agreement, the majority of the most radioactive waste will be removed by 2020 and the remainder will be left on-site and surrounded in cement, capped, and monitored by continuous vacuuming of hazardous chemical vapors. The waste is buried some 600 feet above the Snake River Plain Aquifer, a source of irrigation and drinking water. The agreement was required under a court order and still must be approved by the court.

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