Today, the Department of Energy, along with the Idaho National Laboratory and U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, announced a new public-private initiative to help develop advanced nuclear energy technologies.
The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) is the product of the bipartisan Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) passed and signed into law in 2018. Sens. Crapo and Risch were the sponsors of the bill.
The NRIC will give businesses a place to test nuclear technologies, which should make the timeline for nuclear technology approval shorter, said Dr. Mark Peters, INL director.
"The whole thing is about accelerating because if you're serious about a future for nuclear, you better figure out how to do it faster," he said.
Crapo and Risch said INL has a proven track record with nuclear research and the NEICA was created to eliminate some of the financial and technological barriers that have made it hard for nuclear innovation to get off the ground.
"We couldn't say in the legislation, 'has to go to Idaho,' but everyone knew that Idaho was the place it had to go," said Sen. Crapo. "Because Idaho had earned, not only earned, Idaho had shown that if we want this to work, this is where this new project needs to come."
The INL is celebrating 70 years of nuclear energy and research, a fitting time to make this announcement.
"This is a way I think of planting the flag even deeper here for being the lead place for development and moving forward of the nuclear industry," said Sen. Risch. "Not only in America but in the world."
Dr. Peters said this initiative will play out over decades. He believes it started with NuScale's plan to build a 12 module reference plant at INL. He said more businesses are discussing plans to research and develop advanced nuclear technologies.
"You'll start to see over the course of months to the coming year or two, you'll start to see additional reactor companies going public and saying they want to come here, much like you saw with NuScale," Peters said.
He said NuScale's project alone will generate about 1,000 construction jobs and then 100 permanent jobs.
The House Energy and Water Development Committee has also allocated $5 million to NRIC in the FY2020 budget.