Idaho State JournalIdaho State Journal

Incinerator investigation continues at INEEL
Second flame worries officials

By Anne Minard
Journal Writer
POCATELLO - An incinerator at Idaho's nuclear site is still shut down while officials decide why a secondary flame burned unsupervised during recent range fires.
The incinerator at the Waste Experimental Reduction Facility at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory was shut down on Sunday, Sept. 17 due to the approach of a lightning-caused range fire.
After the operating crews evacuated the facility, a flame reignited in the secondary chamber of the incinerator, according to Stacey Francis, a spokesperson for the site. An operator reportedly found the flame burning upon returning to work Monday, Sept. 18.
"The switch is a switch that you push in to shut. They were trying to get out of their because the fire was rolling over the hill. The operator couldn't remember if he pushed is back out," Francis said.
She said the mishap presented no risk to workers "because they weren't there." She said the risk to the environment was also minimal because no waste ever goes into the secondary chamber where the flame burned. Its function is to boost temperature to ensure proper destruction of the hazardous portions of the waste.
Francis said the flame itself does not produce significant emissions.
"The risk could have been if the temperature had gotten too hot, it could have damaged some of the equipment," she said. "You could have exceeded the temperatures of what the filters can stand or the bag house. You'd have to go in and replace parts."
The temperature in the secondary chamber on Monday morning was 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature ranges during normal operations are between 1700 and 2100 degrees.
Management at the facility are investigating to determine why the secondary chamber was lit and reviewing performance data to evaluate potential impacts. Results so far show that the control used to stop fuel oil from reaching the burner did not remain in the off position, resulting in reignition of the flame.
Francis said incinerator operators are undergoing special training sessions prompted by the incident.
"We're emphasizing the need to double-check and triple-check before you leave," she said.
The incinerator was scheduled to go down last week for maintenance, and Francis said site officials are using the incident-related shutdown to accomplish that work. She said the results of the incident investigation should be complete later this week.