Testing is set to resume at a federally-managed nuclear waste treatment plant west of Idaho Falls.
Tests at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit will begin next week after a nine-month pause, The Post Register reported.
The first 10-day test will examine the effectiveness of a grinder that breaks down solid radioactive waste. The component clogged during previous tests.
"What we were finding was, with the environmental conditions that were down in that auger grinder, it was turning the material into a cement, and seizing up," said Fluor Idaho President Fred Hughes. Fluor took over the facility in June.
If such a problem occurred during the treatment of real radioactive waste, it would be nearly impossible to safely repair. Fluor officials have been working with Idaho Falls company Diversified Metal Products to redesign the component.
A 20-day and 50-day test will follow to study other improvements made at the 53,000-square-foot facility, but officials aren't yet sure when those tests will begin.
"The schedule is built on success," Hughes said.
The treatment facility was built to treat 900,000 gallons of radioactive sodium-bearing waste by 2012, but has been unable to get past the testing phase. The facility is now more than $200 million over budget and the Department of Energy continues to be fined $3,600 daily by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality after missing an October deadline. About $500,000 has accrued so far. The fines will continue until the facility is treating waste, or the state and DOE agree on a new schedule.
After the upcoming test runs are complete, one final 90-day simulant run is planned, followed by a 30-day outage to inspect the facility for any lingering problems. After that, the plant will be cleared to treat actual radioactive waste.