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Hearing planned on barrel ruptures at E. Idaho nuclear site via Idaho State Journal

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A government board that makes recommendations on U.S. Department of Energy facilities plans to hold a public hearing concerning the rupture of four barrels containing radioactive sludge at an eastern Idaho nuclear site.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board will meet in May in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ruptures at the Energy Department’s 890-square-mile site in eastern Idaho that includes the Idaho National Laboratory.

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Officials say there were no injuries and no threat to the public because of the barrel ruptures. Work later resumed at the facility.

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The company has previously said all four 55-gallon barrels appeared to have ruptured the same day they had been packed. An alarm on April 11 alerted officials that one barrel ruptured.

The company reported that three Idaho National Laboratory firefighters who entered the earthen-floored structure on April 11 to extinguish a smoldering barrel reported other possible breaches, and crews outside heard some of the barrels rupture.

The barrels were initially buried in unlined pits in Idaho, but they were unearthed as part of a cleanup process. The company has said the facility had successfully processed about 9,500 barrels before the ruptures occurred.

The barrels were eventually going to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, but they hadn’t yet gone through a certification process to allow that to occur, Simpson said.

At the underground repository in 2014, a barrel of radioactive waste ruptured after being inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The waste had been mixed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture, resulting in a chemical reaction.

The incident resulted in a radiation release that forced the closure of the repository for nearly three years and prompted an expensive recovery effort and a major policy overhaul for handling Cold War-era waste.

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The Idaho site has been used for nuclear waste disposal and storage beginning in the 1950s.

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