Idaho State Journal

INEEL discovers leak in containment tank

By Anne Minard

Journal Staff Writer
Friday, September 01, 2000

POCATELLO - A small leak from a 1,200-gallon plastic tank containing water with low-level radioactivity was discovered recently at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

Cesium-137 and cobalt-60 in amounts more than 10 times above drinking water standards have been found leaking from tanks used to collect rainwater in an old, unused building at the site. INEEL officials say the leak was discovered during a routine check of the area, and no one was exposed to the contaminated water.

John Walsh, a spokesman for the lab, said the tank was not near any water wells leading to the Snake River Plain Aquifer.

"Because it was such a slow drip, they don't expect it went down but a few inches into the soil," he said, adding the soil will be removed.

The leak, measured at about one drop every few minutes, had existed for an unknown period of time. The tank was moved inside a building on a concrete slab, and a collection pan was placed under the leak until the tank can be drained.

The water in the tank will be transferred to another tank and later run through a filtration system to remove the contamination. Pending a successful transfer, site officials will use the process to clean up five more tanks holding the same water, Walsh said.

The water was siphoned into the tanks from a radioactively contaminated sump that collects rainwater and snowmelt in the Loss-of-Fluid-Test facility. LOFT, a reactor where numerous safety tests were conducted, has not operated since the late 1980s. INEEL officials say the reactor fuel has been removed.