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Explosion kills 1 in Idaho. Same firm handles radioactive waste at Hanford

In this file photo, container management operators at US Ecology Idaho near Mountain Home catalog closed drums filled with various types of hazardous waste in a temporary storage area where new material is analyzed.
In this file photo, container management operators at US Ecology Idaho near Mountain Home catalog closed drums filled with various types of hazardous waste in a temporary storage area where new material is analyzed. Idaho Statesman

US Ecology has a site on the Hanford nuclear reservation just north of Richland, but the work there is different than at the Idaho site that had an explosion on Saturday.

One person died in the Idaho explosion, said the Associated Press.

The site in Idaho, about 50 miles south of Boise near Mountain Home, takes in hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic and lead, from across the nation.

It converts them to non-hazardous chemicals to minimize the long-term risks of disposal, according to the Idaho Statesman.

The explosion was in a building used to process powdered magnesium products, according to AP.

The US Ecology site near Richland is used to dispose of low level radioactive waste from 11 western states and only accepts waste that is already packaged for disposal.

The disposal site is in the center of the 580-square-mile nuclear reservation on 100 acres leased by Washington state from the Department of Energy.

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US Ecology’s disposal area at Hanford is just south of the 200 East Area in the center of the site. Courtesy Department of Energy

Waste comes from organizations such as universities, hospitals, biotech firms and electric utilities, including Energy Northwest’s nearby nuclear power plant.

The Washington state Department of Health oversees operations and facilities at US Ecology at Hanford.

When the waste site opened in 1965 it accepted low level radioactive waste from across the United States, but that was limited to western states in 1993.

The older parts of the facility contain chemical waste that was intermingled with radioactive waste before disposal practices were changed, according to the Department of Ecology.

Since 1999 the Department of Ecology has been investigating the extent of the site’s contamination to develop a cleanup plan.

It is working with the state Department of Health to put a protective cover on older trenches that have been filled and are no longer being used for disposal.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533
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