Idaho State Journal

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

INEEL meets the public in Jackson Hole
Mixed-waste incinerator expected to be hot topic

By Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writer
POCATELLO - A public meeting in Jackson Hole Tuesday night should shed light on public opinion regarding a mixed-waste incinerator Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory hopes to build.
The meeting will begin 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Jackson Hole Middle School, 1230 South Park Loop Road.
Last week, the environmental group Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, based in Jackson, bought a full-page newspaper advertisement to warn about the possible effects of an accident at the proposed incinerator.
The group distributed hundreds of copies of the ad at the University of Idaho potato conference last week at Idaho State University to target southeastern Idaho's spud farmers. It claims winds will send the incinerator's radioactive particulate their way.
But Gerald Macke, a technician for the National Weather Service, said the pre-
vailing winds in southeastern Idaho "12 months out of the year" blow toward the southwest. Jackson Hole lies almost due east of the proposed incinerator site.
Allan Jines, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy in Idaho, said tests have been conducted for 30 years to ensure the safety of incinerators like the one proposed.
He said DOE has used computer simulations that take into account complex wind patterns in the area, and all areas within a 50-mile radius are predicted to be "well below" federal health regulations for pollutants.
In addition, monitors will be installed to measure the amount of emissions discharged. Idaho officials also will be able to view a constant, real-time output of emissions.
The waste to be incinerated was shipped to INEEL from the Rocky Flats site in Colorado. Shipments were buried in the ground at INEEL from 1954 to 1970. That waste remains underground, and tests are under way to explore what's there and how best to treat it.
After 1970, INEEL began storing that same waste above ground in specially equipped structures. There is about 65,000 cubic meters or more than 300,000 barrels of the waste in above-ground storage. Twenty-two percent of that waste will be treated with the incinerator, and the rest will be processed by other methods, Jines said.
In a legal settlement signed last October, DOE is required to ship all of its transuranic waste" to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico by 2015. No fewer than 3,100 cubic meters - about 15,000 barrels - must be out of Idaho by Dec. 31, 2002.
But without an incinerator to rid the waste of PCB contaminants and organic waste, WIPP won't accept it.
Construction on the incinerator is scheduled to begin this March, depending on when the state issues the required permits.
"We've not missed any milestone settlement agreements to date, and we're not going to miss them," Ron King, director of communications for DOE, said last week.

Anne Minard covers the environment and INEEL for the Journal. She may be reached by phone at 239-3168, or by e-mail at


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