Idaho National Laboratory Fact Sheet

The mission of NCSL’s Nuclear Legislative Workgroup (NLWG) is to provide legislative members with the opportunity to learn about the cleanup of federal nuclear weapons production and research facilities, the transportation and storage of radioactive wastes, and nuclear energy issues that affect our nation and states. This fact sheet is part of this effort.

Overview

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in southeastern Idaho has been home to continuous nuclear and energy research, including naval testing and experimental nuclear reactors, since 1949. Located about 30 miles east of Idaho falls, the 890 square mile site continues to operate today under Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) as a multi-program facility offering science-based nuclear and energy research, education, supercomputing, national defense, and environmental cleanup. The cleanup activities at INL are overseen by the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

State:  ID
Size: 890 square miles
Original Purpose: Nuclear Research & Energy Production
Estimated Cleanup Completion: 2035

Scale of the Contamination

There are four major categories of contamination at INL:

  1. Wastes associated with recovery of uranium from nuclear reactors. These include nine million gallons of high-level waste and 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing wastes stored in underground tanks.
  2. Spent nuclear fuel from naval and commercial nuclear power development. The site manages 220 types of spent nuclear fuel, and continues to receive research reactor spent fuel from foreign and domestic sites. The fuel is transferred into dry storage at INL.
  3. Decontamination and Decommissioning of Surplus Facilities. More than 250 structures were contaminated at INL including fuel storage pools, waste storage tanks and buildings and more than 50 nuclear reactor vessels. 

Transuranic (TRU) Wastes. These consist of protective gear, tools, residue, debris, and other items from nuclear production and research activities. An estimated 65,000 cubic meters of TRU wastes was generated from the Naval Nuclear Propulsion and DOE Office of Nuclear Energy programs.


DOE's Environmental Management

EM activities at INL have been divided into 11 stages based on “Waste Area Groups”. Areas of the site are contaminated with different levels of various pollutants that pose a threat to human health and the environment. These groups were set up to address these differences and respond independently to each area.  Seven out of the 11 stages have completed remedial action.
 
The Subsurface Disposal Area
The Subsurface Disposal Area is a 97-acre landfill containing waste from past nuclear operations at INL and the Rocky Flats Plant. The disposal area is part of the Accelerated Retrieval Project at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex. The project retrieves and exhumes buried waste from the landfill and transports it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad New Mexico. The project began in 2005 and continues today.