Fire at Idaho National Laboratory burns 109,000 acres

The Jefferson fire, mostly on lands administered by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), has burned 109,000 acres as of Wednesday night. The fire started near Jefferson Boulevard on Tuesday and quickly grew, pushed by 40 mph winds. About a third of the fire is on BLM land, and that agency is supplying most of the fire suppression resources.

The INL was created in 1949 to conduct nuclear energy research, and is operated for the Department of Energy by Battelle Energy Alliance. One of the facilities at the site which lost power during the fire includes the Materials and Fuel Complex, handling spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, as well as plutonium for powering space-exploration power units.

UPDATE on July 16, 2010 @ 1:19 p.m. MT:

The following is an article from the Idaho Mountain Express dated July 16:

The Idaho National Laboratory reported to the Idaho Mountain Express on Thursday morning that a fire this week at the eastern Idaho nuclear reservation “did not burn any contaminated areas.”

Late Thursday afternoon, as the Express was being finalized for press, the INL issued a followup statement through spokesman John Epperson.

Following is the statement in its entirety:

“Three actively controlled CERCLA sites were burned over during the wildfire. CERCLA sites are areas of land that have been cleaned of radioactive contamination to levels acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Idaho and the Department of Energy.

“That data from general area sampling indicates that no radioactivity has been released. All the areas are located near the Critical Infrastructure Test Range Complex facility near the INL’s Central Facilities Area.

“A map outlining all of the contaminated areas shows crews where they may not dig or disturb land without special permission.

“There were three closed CERCLA sites that also were burned. They pose no threat to the environment.”

CERCLA is the acronym for Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The federal law, often referred to as Superfund, was enacted in 1980 to assess, manage and remediate hazardous waste sites across the United States.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.