Nuclear Health and Safety:

Environmental Problems at DOE's Idaho National Engineering Laboratory

RCED-91-56: Published: Feb 12, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated environmental problems at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), focusing on: (1) the environmental impact of those problems and their impact on DOE operations; and (2) difficulties DOE encountered in managing the site's environmental problems.

GAO found that: (1) underground pipes and tanks used to transfer and store mixed wastes at the INEL chemical processing plant did not meet secondary containment standards, the primary reason for the plant's remaining closed for over a year; (2) DOE also identified problems related to the treatment and storage of mixed wastes and the lack of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved treatment technologies; (3) past waste disposal practices resulted in releases of radioactive and hazardous contaminants into the ground and the Snake River Plain aquifer; (4) delays occurred in INEL environmental cleanup and compliance activities, partly due to ongoing negotiations among DOE, EPA, and the state of Idaho; and (5) INEL has begun little physical cleanup on more than 200 inactive waste sites.

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