The Office of Environmental Management (EM) is achieving its environmental and sustainability goals as it demolishes two legacy nuclear reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site. Since 2022, when EM’s INL Site contractor, Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC), began decontamination and demolition (D&D) activities on the Submarine 1st Generation Westinghouse (S1W) and the Aircraft Carrier 1st Generation Westinghouse (A1W) reactor prototypes at the Naval Reactors Facility at the INL Site, recycling and waste minimization have been high priorities.

D&D crews have made great strides to ensure safe recycling practices are used to properly dispose of non-contaminated waste, including lead, copper, brass, bronze, carbon steel, aluminum and stainless steel. IEC also hired a regional small recycling business to collect clean metal from the projects and transport the material to a larger recycler in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Since the beginning of the project, 342 tons of debris and scrap metal have been recycled, diverting about 864 cubic yards of material from being disposed of in a landfill. In addition, recycling metal offsets 581 tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would result from the production of new metal. While these environmental successes are significant, the project also generated approximately $463,000 in cost savings. “The D&D efforts at the Naval Reactors Facility have been very successful in protecting employees, achieving recycling goals and reducing the environmental footprint,” said IEC D&D Projects Operations Director Mike Swartz.

The S1W and A1W prototypes were shut down by the Navy in 1989 and 1994, respectively, and played a significant role in training and developing the nation’s nuclear fleet. The S1W reactor was the prototype for the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, the USS NAUTILUS, and the A1W was the prototype for the first nuclear-powered surface ship and aircraft carrier, the USS LONG BEACH and the USS ENTERPRISE.

IEC anticipates completing D&D efforts at the S1W prototype next year. It is expected that D&D work at the A1W prototype, which began in the summer of 2023, will be completed approximately two years after. Swartz said he is proud to be part of a project that focuses on completion, while protecting the environment and partnering with small businesses. It will become a model for the company as it progresses. “The lessons we have learned will be applied to future D&D efforts to the benefit of the project and the public,” he said.

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Contributor: Carter Harrison