Nuclear fuel facility slated for east Idaho expected to boost economy, jobs

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) — The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy are moving forward on a joint project. The $1.6 billion facility will be built at the Idaho National Laboratory site.

A year ago the Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy said the current building couldn't safely operate and meet the needs without an upgrade.

A couple ideas were brought to the table, but only one stuck.

Nuclear fuel from Navy warships have filled at this facility since 1957. The expended core facility has met its expiration date. The new site will be located on the northeast section of the Naval Reactors Facility. According to Public Affairs Director Don Dahl says the improvements will fulfill the U.S. Navy's operational needs.

The project is expected to bring in more jobs.

About $500 million dollars will go towards construction costs so, there's some jobs. The current building at the INL doesn't allow the DOE to operate nuclear fuel in a safe or environmentally responsible way. The solution to build a new Naval Reactor Facility.

Not only is this move good for the U.S. Navy and the energy department, it’s also beneficial to eastern Idaho's economy.

"We are really lucky to have the site near us. Economically it's a driving force in our area," said Hope Morrow, Regional Economist for the Idaho Department of Labor. "If we are looking to bring in about 360 construction jobs,” she said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate for eastern Idaho sits at 3 percent.

"We have somewhat of a workforce shortage. We have employers that are consistently looking for workers. And they're having a hard time finding them."

The national unemployment average currently sits at 5 percent. According to Morrow this project will affect other businesses, such as the retail industry, home building and much more.

"You have got people moving in and that means we have to build houses and rental apartments,” she said. “Then people are eating and shopping." >

The project is anticipated to begin in 2017

The director of the U.S. Nuclear Program Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr. signed a record of decision for the naval reactors on Nov. 15.

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