b'C H A P T E R 23T H E E N D O W M E N T O F U RA N I U Mbeing made. Soon after, the tanks The old Waste Calcining Facility had glass viewing windows and manipula-received their first combat experience worn out. Small scratches and pits on tors. Old annoyances such as awkwardin the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where the metal surfaces of vessels and pipes lifting lugs on heavy objects were elim-they withstood direct hits from enemy attracted deposits of radionuclides that inated. 31fire. The Army decided to produce were hard, if not impossible, to1,150 M1-A2 tanks by retrofitting older remove. Hazards to the maintenance The makeover of the Chem PlantM1 tanks. The armor production work, and repair crews were increasing at the included a better air filtration system, awith a reduced work force, was expect- same time that exposure standards new Remote Analytical Laboratory, anded to keep the hangar occupied until at were becoming more stringent. T h e other upgrades. New locker rooms andleast the year 2003. The formulas and designers had not anticipated that a cafeteria replaced their worn-out orig-production processes remained secret, waste feed containing fluorides would inals. The uranium reprocessing plantand the Army merely conceded that the pass through the pipes and vessels in itself was rebuilt in stages beginning inarmor was denser than lead. 27 the plant, but these and other exotic 1979. This time, new fuel storagechemicals had helped to age it. 29 basins were located adjacent to the INELs move to defense programs process building so fuel could moveproved to be a mixed blessing for rela- DOE selected the Ralph M. Parsons underwater directly to the dissolvers.tions between INEL and the State of Company as concept designer of a new The arrangement eliminated the tediousIdaho. On the one hand, the new pro- calcining facility. It was to meet four loading and unloading of casks for anjects boosted employment and budgets main goals: be safer for workers, raise overland journey of one-third of a mile.at the INEL and, by extension of the the process capacity from 1,800 gallons The huge pools had 2,600 fuel storageeconomic multiplier, the entire econo- to 3,000 gallons a day, handle the positions. The process cells could dis-my of southeast Idaho. On the other chemistry of future wastes, and dis- solve modern fuel elements usinghand, the defense build-up aroused the charge even less radioactivity into the hydrofluoric acid. The method had beengreater energies of pacifists and envi- atmosphere. Every feature of the plant invented at INEL, so the process wasronmentalists, who mounted vigorous was up for improvementthe heating named Fluorinel. The $200 millionprotests across the state. These placed system, the handling of ruthenium, plant featured remote- and computer-the governors office in a predicament. even the shape of the calciner vessel. controlled management of the process.John Evans staff, for example, debated Federal rules that had followed from Despite its great cost, the plant wasthe political hazards involved should he environmental protection laws now expected to recover enough uraniumconsummate a deal with the IDO: You required that future decontamination and other commercial by-products inshut down the Chem Plant injection and final decommissioning be consid- five years to pay back the costandwell, and the governor will support the ered in the design. 30 continue efficiently for decades tonew defense projects. 28 come. 32The new calciner started hot operationsMore was new at the Chem Plant in in 1982. In some ways, its design was a Beyond the INEL, most of the AECsthe early 1980s than Governor Evanss tribute to the original plant. It was in a old demonstration power plants hadevaporation pond. A second generation single building with the process cells long since come to the end of theirof process facilities was replacing the below grade. Shielded equipment cubi- operational life. Their nuclear fuel,well-used originals. Beginning in the cles next to the cells housed high-main- some of which had been exotic ormid-1970s, new construction had been tenance itemsalthough this time they unusual, needed to be removed. If thea constant activity at the Chem Plant. had air locks. Back-up equipment was unfissioned U-235 could not be recov-Construction trailers, warehouses, tem- installed from the start so that a failure ered, it needed secure storage some-porary contractor office buildings, and would not have to shut down a cam- where. The AEC assigned some of it tolaydown yards cluttered up the com- paign. More chores could be done Idaho, handing the Chem Plant a newpl e remotely, so there were more shielded mission: storing the fuel. Some of it,x .229'