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Photo of an apparently similar fire at WIPP in New Mexico in 2014.
The INL (Idaho National [Nuclear] Lab) nuclear waste barrel was to be shipped to WIPP, because even though INL promotes nuclear, Idaho doesn’t want nuclear waste, and used legal action to get a sweetheart of a deal with the US government. It is morally repugnant to promote nuclear and then refuse to deal with nuclear waste, and it should be illegal. (While promoting nuclear is morally repugnant and should be illegal, promoting while refusing nuclear waste is even more so).

A 55 gallon (208 liter) nuclear waste barrel started smoldering at the Idaho National (Nuclear) lab (INL) last Wednesday night, setting off the fire alarm. INL firefighters put out the fire and separated it from other barrels. They suffered from external contamination but supposedly no internal contamination, according to Department of Energy spokesperson Danielle Miller. Don Miley of the INL joint info center stated that radioactive decay may have made the barrel heat up and ignite uranium in it. The storage site has HEPA filters on the ventilation system so that reportedly no measurable radioactive materials escaped [1, 5]

According to the Idaho National Lab web site: “INL is the nation’s lead laboratory for nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment...” [2] In short, they are the lead lab for promoting more nuclear and creating more nuclear waste. But, Idaho managed to sue and get a sweetheart of a deal that says they don’t keep nuclear waste in their state! And, so the nuclear waste barrel which caught fire was to go to the crammed full of nuclear waste and collapsing salt bed mine called WIPP in New Mexico, which has already had a nuclear waste fire. [3]

When it comes to pork barrel US government funding for INL, Idaho thinks it is part of the United States of America. When it comes to dealing with nuclear waste, Idaho pretends it is not part of the United States, and wants it sent elsewhere. The area around INL is arid, cool, and has had at least one major nuclear accident. Idaho has a very low population. Why are they allowed to export waste to hot arid WIPP? If they properly package and store and monitor the waste, then the aquifer isn’t so much of an issue. WIPP and other nuclear waste sites also have important aquifers which are endangered.

Thus, for political reasons (litigation, successful lobbying and ???), the nuclear waste barrel, which caught fire, was to be sent out of cool arid underpopulated Idaho, and away from the Idaho National (Nuclear) Lab to hot and arid New Mexico, to be stuffed in the collapsing salt bed, surrounding by a lot of oil wells, called WIPP: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/the-weeping-wipp-road-wipp-leaking-from-the-get-go Shipping the nuclear waste is also hazardous.

Nuclear waste storage needs to be based on the better of all bad solutions, not on litigation, lobbying or other political clout. Stopping new nuclear is a major start, but is not a complete solution. This includes stopping INL from promoting nuclear power.

Idaho National (Nuclear) Lab should be shutdown and converted to a proper above and/or possibly below ground permanently monitored nuclear waste storage facility, with the nuclear waste repackaged as needed.

Let the INL workers babysit the old nuclear waste, instead of promoting more nuclear mess. The nuclear waste sent from Rocky Flats Colorado should probably have stayed in Rocky Flats, but some of it’s at INL and Rocky Flats has been mostly cleaned up, albeit at the expense of INL and others.

The area of WIPP has an even more endangered aquifer, because the radioactive waste’s just being dumped there into a collapsing salt mine and because of karst. The west Texas nuclear waste dump also has an endangered aquifer. [4] WIPP is actually meant to collapse, which is a major disaster waiting to happen, if it hasn’t already.

News Release:
ICP News Release 2

Date: April 12, 2018 Time: 9:00 a.m MDT

Idaho National Laboratory Fire Department responds to incident at RWMC

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Fire Department responded to a fire alarm late Wednesday night at the Accelerated Retrieval Project (ARP 5) containment structure at the Idaho Cleanup Project’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex (RWMC) involving release of material from a drum on the Department of Energy’s INL Site.

There were no reports of injuries. The surrounding area is being monitored, and no contamination has been detected outside the facility. The ARP 5 facility is engineered with specially designed high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are designed to trap contamination.

There was an indication that a waste drum inside the facility had an elevated temperature and was breached. INL’s Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information Center were both activated and remain operational in support of Fluor Idaho, the clean-up contractor at the Idaho Site.

Employees are reporting to work per their normal shifts. Some operations at RWMC are temporarily restricted.

The Radioactive Waste Management Complex is located 55 miles west of Idaho Falls on the DOE’s INL Site. Since the 1950s, the Department of Energy (DOE) has used the RWMC to manage, store, and dispose of waste contaminated with radioactive and hazardous elements generated in national defense and research programs. The RWMC comprises 177 acres and includes three main areas: The operations and administration area, the Subsurface Disposal Area, and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project. ARP 5 is used to process waste drums for eventual shipment out of the state of Idaho….” [5]

Some pages from:
Status of Idaho Transuranic Waste Program, by Jack Zimmerman Deputy Manager, Idaho Cleanup Project DOE Idaho Operations Office National Cleanup Workshop“, September, 2016 https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/09/f33/Zimmerman.Thurs_..pdf

[1] https://nuclear-news.net/2018/04/14/radioactive-sludge-barrel-ruptures-at-idaho-nuclear-site-2/
See too: http://www.nukepro.net/2018/04/another-radioactive-barrel-heading-to.html
[2] https://www.inl. gov/about-inl/general-information
[3] https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/sen-crapo-of-idaho-wants-more-nuclear-pork-barrel-jobs-but-not-rad-waste-sponsors-nuclear-bills-endangering-the-rest-of-the-country-the-ugly-underbelly-of-the-us-senate-system-idahos-shakedown/
[4] http://www2.clarku.edu/mtafund/prodlib/card/Unsafe_Radwaste_Disposal_at_WIPP.pdf
[5] https://fluor-idaho. com/Portals/0/Documents/08_Newsroom/Fluor%20Idaho%20News%20Release%202%20April%2012_1.pdf

Idaho nuclear accident discussed here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-small-isnt-beautiful-nor-safe-nor-cheap-nor-even-new-usnrc-nuscale-comment-deadline-monday-night-31-august-one-minute-to-midnight-ny-dc-time/

Map from “Removal Action Plan for the Accelerated Retrieval Project for a Described Area within Pit 4” August 2006 https://www.osti.gov/scitech/servlets/purl/915223

Thanks to Walter of the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle and FC of the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle and FC blog for notifying us about this disasterous event.