After Being Dark For 20 Years, This Nuclear Fuel Test Site Will Relaunch In Idaho

Dec 11, 2017

Part of the sprawling Idaho National Laboratory complex near Idaho Falls, ID.
Credit Idaho National Laboratory

After decades of being offline, an old test reactor at Idaho National Laboratory will get new life.

The Transient Reactor Test facility, or TREAT, was designed to put nuclear reactor fuels under stressful conditions. It operated at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) from 1959 to 1994. Then it went dark.

 

A nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 helped spur the INL to resume this testing. Early in the Obama administration, plans were made to re-launch the facility.

 

Spokesperson Amy Lientz explained, "The events of Fukushima drove the importance of making sure that we operate our fuels as efficiently and as safely as possible. So this test facility allows the operators to test that under a lot of disaster scenarios."

A lot has changed in nuclear energy, even across the last decade. "There’s recognition that our reactor designs have advanced greatly," said Lientz. "and we, in parallel, also need to look at the fuels that those reactor designs are using."

 

This $75 million project will also help inform one of INL’s marquee initiatives, building small modular reactors. According to Lientz, "this is a very big priority for Idaho National Laboratory."

 

INL is preparing the facility now, which will be its fourth test reactor, and will come online in 2018.

 

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