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This buried nuclear waste site was finally cleaned up in Idaho

Project to clean up nuclear waste in eastern Idaho is nearly finished

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Radioactive Waste Management Complex site in eastern Idaho.
This 2014 aerial photo provided by the Idaho Environmental Coalition shows the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Radioactive Waste Management Complex site in eastern Idaho.
Idaho Environmental Coalition, U.S. Department of Energy via Associated Press

A project to dig up and remove radioactive and hazardous waste in eastern Idaho is nearly finished, said U.S. officials, per The Associated Press.

  • The final part of the waste was removed from the 97-acre landfill after being buried in unlined pits atop an aquifer for decades.
  • Per the AP, the waste included plutonium-contaminated filters, graphite molds, sludges and oxidized uranium and was generated during nuclear weapons production work at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. Later, the waste was packaged and boxed and sent to eastern Idaho from 1954 to 1970 where it was buried.

The project, called the Accelerated Retrieval Project, started in 2005, and is one of the many efforts to clean up nuclear waste.

  • It has managed to finish 18-months ahead of schedule.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson represents the area and took to Twitter to highlight this accomplishment.

  • “What exciting news for DOE and the Idaho Cleanup project. A successful clean-up means protection for the region and the Snake River Plain Aquifer,” the tweet said.
  • The aquifer supplies water to farms and cities in the region but radioactive and chemical contamination has been found in the water in recent years.

In December, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that radioactive waste stored in Idaho, Washington and South Carolina will be reclassified and moved into storage permanently somewhere else, per U.S. News.

  • “After extensive policy and legal assessment, DOE affirmed that the interpretation is consistent with the law, guided by the best available science and data, and that the views of members of the public and the scientific community were considered in its adoption,” the agency said, per the report.