On Thursday, October 22, 2015, Snake River Alliance members and supporters can visit the Idaho National Laboratory, which was established in 1949 and covers 890 square miles of eastern Idaho’s high desert plain. Alliance Site tours are excellent opportunities to get a real sense of what has happened and is happening at the Idaho National Lab. This year we’re again welcoming visual artists on the tour who can go home and communicate to others what they see and learn. Everyone is welcome to join us. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll see first-hand.
Two hulking nuclear-powered airplane engines. For obvious reasons, they never operated in the sky, but unshielded, ground-level experiments between 1955 and 1961 left a fair amount of contamination here in Idaho.
Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project. The work at AMWTP is to sort, compact, and package low-level and plutonium-contaminated waste to ship off-site. Two accidents last year have closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant indefinitely, so plutonium-contaminated waste is treated and then put back in storage.
Radioactive Waste Management Complex, where plutonium from weapons production was buried above the Snake River Aquifer and is now being exhumed.
Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, where there is some of the most radioactive waste on earth. Spent nuclear fuel is stored underwater and in dry casks there. High-level waste was produced when spent fuel was dissolved in acid so highly enriched uranium could be removed. It’s stored there in a dried form in giant bins. We’ll see the facility that, it is hoped, will finish drying the rest of the liquid high-level waste that’s now in buried tanks.
The tour will run from 9 am to about 4 pm. It will be a long, challenging day, filled with juxtapositions. You will be close to but protected from very dangerous material. The Arco Desert, at the base of the Lemhi and Lost River ranges, is one of the most beautiful parts of our state. Humans have lived there for well over 10,000 years. Beneath it, sixty years of nuclear contamination threatens the sole source of drinking water for 300,000 Idahoans downstream. Hazards have been created and accumulated and are now being cleaned up. Come see it for yourself.
If you have questions or already know you would like to go on the tour, please contact our nuclear program director, Beatrice Brailsford, at [email protected].