Idaho State Journal
Incinerator investigation continues at INEEL
Second flame worries officials
By Anne Minard
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
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.
"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
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
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.