The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), a first-of-a-kind, 53,000-square-foot facility will be treating 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive and hazardous waste that has been stored in underground storage tanks which are located above the Snake River Plain Aquifer.
The waste that will be treated – called sodium-bearing waste – was generated during the later stages of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing from the 1950s until 1992. The liquid was transferred to three, 300,000-gallon storage tanks.
IWTU, located east of the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, will use a steam-reforming technology to heat up the liquid waste to temperatures up to 700C, essentially drying it; consolidating the solid, granular material; packaging it in stainless steel canisters; and storing the containers in concrete vaults at the site. Ultimately, the treated material will be transported to a national geologic repository for permanent disposal.
Any emissions generated during the treatment campaign will be filtered through high-efficiency particulate air (hepa) filters to "scrub" the discharges to ensure state and federal air quality requirements are met.
Steam reforming is used successfully in a variety of chemical and petrochemical applications. It is currently being used at a facility in Erwin, Tenn., to treat radioactive wastes from commercial nuclear facilities.