Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator, and Madelyn Creedon, NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator, this week visited the Idaho National Laboratory including the Naval Reactors Facility, where they were hosted by Admiral John Richardson, Deputy Administrator for Naval Reactors.
Klotz and Creedon observed operations at the existing spent fuel handling facility, known as the Expended Core Facility (ECF), a 55-year-plus-old facility. This facility, which is need of replacement, supports the Navy’s nuclear powered surface ships and submarines. Naval Reactors personnel discussed the plans for the replacement facility, currently scheduled to begin operations in 2025.
The Naval Reactors Facility is the site of the first ever nuclear power plant designed to operate aboard a submarine, and has continued to play a vital role in the nation's ability to design, build, and dispose of nuclear reactors for submarines and aircraft carriers. Now, NR’s primary activities at the facility include examining, processing and preparing naval spent nuclear fuel for long-term dry storage.
The new facility will incorporate the capabilities for naval spent nuclear fuel handling that currently exist in the ECF and its support facilities. Additionally, a major portion of this new facility will provide needed capability, which does not exist in the ECF, to handle full length aircraft carrier naval spent fuel received in new M-290 shipping containers. The current facility and its replacement are vital to national security. A long term interruption of refueling and defueling schedules for nuclear-powered vessels, as required by existing maintenance schedules, would jeopardize operational availability of the nuclear fleet to fulfill military missions worldwide.
Klotz and Creedon also met with members of the Idaho National Laboratory. The lab has a long history in the nuclear energy area and its growing expertise in new threat areas such as cyber security; make it an important nonproliferation partner for NNSA. By developing and testing alternative low enriched uranium fuels, INL provides critical support that enables NNSA to convert reactors from highly enriched uranium to LEU.
HEU minimization is one of President Obama’s hallmark policies and INL's support is central to the substantial success NNSA has had in developing LEU fuels. Because of some unique facilities at INL, the lab has also emerged as a leader in cyber security and is the lab co-chair of the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation joint HQ-lab cyber task force. In addition, INL conducts work on radiation detection methods for nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards, and treaty verification, and supports other treaty verification technologies.