Safely cleaning up contaminated waste
Bechtel and partner BWX Technologies managed and operated the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP)—the Department of Energy’s (DOE's) most advanced radioactive waste treatment facility—in Idaho Falls, Idaho, from 2005 to 2011. The Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment project retrieves, identifies, treats, packages, and ships transuranic waste for permanent storage.
Inside the project
Radioactive waste was sent to the Idaho site during the 1970s and 1980s from DOE’s Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver, Colorado.
The waste, stored in large boxes and drums, includes industrial debris such as rags, work clothing, machine parts, and tools—as well as soil and sludge—contaminated with transuranic radioactive elements, primarily plutonium. Most of the waste also is contaminated with hazardous chemicals.
Caption: Crews repackage the transuranic waste in special, extremely secure containers and transport them by truck to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for permanent disposal. Transuranic refers to elements with an atomic number greater than that of uranium.
Ahead of schedule
The Bechtel-led team treated and shipped more radioactive waste during the course of the project than any other site
in the DOE complex—and did it nearly three years ahead of schedule. In addition, there was not a single lost-time injury in six years.
Caption: Workers use radiography, gamma spectrometry, coring, and gas sampling to identify the contents.
Why It Matters
In 2010, the project team reduced waste volume by nearly 2,700 cubic yards (more than 2,050 cubic meters)—nearly 9,900 55-gallon (264 cubic meters) drums—eliminating 360 shipments and saving more than 200,000 gallons (757,082 liters) of fuel.As a result, the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project won a 2011 EStar Environmental Sustainability award from the U.S. Department of Energy—one of three it won that year.