The headline — “Officials removing radioactive waste from Idaho facility” — is incorrect and misleading. The calcine, picturesquely described as “detergent-like powdered waste,” is not being removed from Idaho anytime soon —likely, never.
While the calcined waste may look like laundry detergent, believe me, you don’t want it anywhere near your laundry. It is some of the most dangerously radioactive stuff on the planet — enough to cover a football field more than three feet deep. It is concentrated from more than 7 million gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste left from reprocessing irradiated nuclear fuel during the Cold War.
The project outlined in the Statesman story will not remove any of this highly radioactive material from the Idaho site. It is an important pilot demonstration to see if they can empty the storage bins, some of which were not designed to be emptied. Once they learn how to move it, and come up with containers to ship it in, it will have to be processed into an even more stable form. The calcine is safer to store than liquid waste, but it can be dissolved and would have to be treated again before permanent disposal in a repository that does not yet exist.
Gary E. Richardson, Boise