Radioactive sludge moved away from Columbia River
RICHLAND, Wash. -- The first of many steel containers filled with radioactive sludge was moved about 11 miles further away from the Columbia River.
The U.S. Department of Energy has been working on the sludge removal project for 20 years.
"It's been an incredible effort over a lot of years to bring this very technically complicated project to completion,” said Mark French, project director for the sludge removal.
The radioactive sludge is a mixture of fuel fragments leftover from the production of nuclear weapons.
Eighteen tons of the sludge was held in a basin just 400 yards away from the Columbia River which posed a threat to the Tri-Cities main water source.
It is estimated to take another year to fill and ship the rest of the containers.
"It really takes that dedication and people sticking with it to make something like this happen and be successful. I couldn't be prouder of the team that's done this," French said.
The crew has been working at a mock site to simulate without radioactive materials what the move would look like.
“This project just points out how capable all employees that work here are at any level of the site," said Ray Geimer, vice president of the sludge removal project.
After the sludge is out of the reactors, workers will seal the building. Then, they will let it sit for decades until the radioactive material decays. The building will then be demolished.
"There's no way that this equipment can fail in any way that's going to cause a leak or any threat to the environment or any exposure to any personnel," Geimer said.
The radioactive sludge was moved to a building called the T Plant where it will be held indefinitely.