Excavator Retrieved From Idaho Nuclear Waste Pit

Jun 2, 2017

Credit Marcel Molina Jr. / Flickr Creative Commons

An excavator that slid into a nuclear waste pit in Idaho has been retrieved.

The excavator slid into the pit May 11 after a partial collapse of the dig area at the U.S. Department of Energy's desert site, The Post Register reported.

Crews dug a ramp for the excavator and drove it from the pit area into a nearby service bay, where it was inspected, Fluor Idaho spokesman Erik Simpson said. It will be repaired soon.

Although the incident delayed the project nearly two weeks, cleanup at the area is still about two years ahead of schedule, Simpson said.

The pit, called the Accelerated Retrieval Project 8, contains transuranic waste generated at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant outside Denver. The waste was buried in Idaho between 1950 and 1970.

Corrective actions have been taken to prevent future incidents, Simpson said.

Soil was removed from the side of the pit, which allows cleanup crews to position the excavator about four feet closer to the waste.

"It creates more of a tiered approach to the pit so the excavator doesn't have to dig so deep," Simpson said.

Pit perimeter sloping also will be altered to create "a less vertical environment."