French Company Wins INL Waste Disposal Contract

By Tom Bacon

The company which runs the Idaho National Laboratory has agreed to pay a French nuclear company $34-million to entomb low-level nuclear waste at the giant facility. Battelle Energy Alliance awarded the contract to Areva Federal Services, an American subsidiary of the French company, Areva.

The plan is to build more than 200 big concrete vaults, fill them with contaminated material from the nuclear lab and store them in the arid high desert of Eastern Idaho. In years past, radioactive material - things such as clothing, gloves, equipment, old piping, filters and the like - was simply dumped into metal barrels and buried shallowly in the desert.

The concrete vaults are meant to stop leakage and migration of dangerous elements into the water table below the facility which environmentalist feared would happen as the old barrels rusted and decomposed.

Areva has had a presence in eastern Idaho since 2009 with its promise to build a $3-billion uranium enrichment plant to turn out fuel for nuclear reactors. The company got a $2-billion loan guarantee from the federal government, plus tax breaks from the state of Idaho, but year after year, construction of the plant has been delayed.

Work was to have started in 2011 - then, 2012, and every year since. Earlier this year, Areva stopped projecting a start date for construction, citing financing difficulties. A rival company in New Mexico is expanding, while prices for enriched uranium are falling. Areva and its supporters had predicted the new plant would generate thousands of construction jobs and about 700 permanent positions in the  Idaho Falls area.
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