Representatives of companies from throughout the U.S. and Canada are in Idaho Falls learning about how to become part of the nuclear reactor business.
Sponsors of the Ready4Nuclear Western U.S. and Canada Nuclear Suppliers Workshop, which is being held Tuesday and Wednesday at Idaho National Laboratory’s Meeting Center, include the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and NuScale Power, the Oregon-based company that is planning to build small modular reactors at INL’s desert site west of Idaho Falls.
“The lab is such a resource, and this is just a perfect fit for a project here in this area,” said Bobbi-Jo Meuleman, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, which also is co-sponsoring the conference.
NuScale is working with INL and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems on the small modular reactor project, which will help provide power to UAMPS members, including Idaho Falls, throughout the region. The project is currently before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with final approvals expected in 2020. The reactors are expected to be operational in 2026, and will create about 300 permanent jobs.
“They’re all good, high-paying, sustainable jobs,” said Dana Kirkham, science, technology and research director for Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho.
In his opening remarks to conference attendees, INL Director Mark Peters described the small modular reactor project as, in a way, a return to INL’s past as a reactor testing site. He talked up the area’s potential for future nuclear industry expansion. He pointed to the colleges and universities in the area and the support INL has gotten both from the federal government and from the state, including a couple of tax exemptions for the small modular project that passed this year and the Legislature’s support in 2017 for the construction of two new INL buildings.
“That … gave us confidence that we were starting to feel like not just Idaho National Laboratory, but Idaho’s National Laboratory,” he said.
Kirkham hit on some of the same themes in her remarks, saying the region is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of the companies.
“Eastern Idaho is a big supporter of the nuclear industry because for decades we have been at the forefront of developing it,” Kirkham said.
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.