November 20, 2014 – 1:13 pm EST

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — An eastern Idaho radioactive waste treatment facility planned to be operational in 2012 won’t be ready for months, federal officials say.

The U.S. Department of Energy tells the Post Register ( in a story published Thursday that malfunctions with the $571 million Integrated Waste Treatment Unit continue to cause delays.

The cleanup contractor is CH2M-WG Idaho, also known as CWI. The 53,000-square foot facility is intended to turn 900,000 gallons of liquid waste into a solid form. The high-level radioactive waste came from processing spent nuclear fuel from U.S. Navy ships. Currently it’s stored in tanks at the INL’s Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center.

“What everybody needs to keep in mind is this is a tough project,” said CH2M-WG Idaho Vice President Hoss Brown. “It’s better the problems are recognized in the test phase than rushing to introduce radioactive material and then fixing them.”

Officials said the facility, since April, had to shut down four times during tests. Problems ranged from a wrong part being installed to a leak to a problem with pressurization.

“DOE is learning, again, that startup of a first-of-its kind facility is very difficult,” said Richard Craun, deputy manager of the federal agency’s Idaho office.

The 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement mandated that all liquid waste be removed from the state by the end of 2012. The setbacks at the facility mean the federal agency, on Dec. 31, will have missed five deadlines for the cleanup project.

When the facility starts operating properly, officials say it will take about a year to process the radioactive waste. After that, the granular-type material will be put inside stainless steel canisters and placed in concrete vaults at the site.

Information from: Post Register,