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New Facility Planned for Handling Naval Spent Nuclear Fuel

On November 15, 2016, the Director of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr., signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the recapitalization of infrastructure supporting naval spent nuclear fuel handling at the Naval Nuclear Laboratory’s Naval Reactors Facility (NRF), on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

In making this decision, the NNPP considered potential environmental impacts, impacts upon the NNPP support of naval spent fuel handling for at least the next 40 years, availability of resources, and public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Recapitalization of Infrastructure Supporting Naval Spent Nuclear Fuel Handling at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), DOE/EIS-0453-D and DOE/EIS‑0453‑F. The NNPP will implement the Preferred Alternative to construct a new facility in the northeast section of the NRF site (i.e., Location 3/4).

The NNPP will recapitalize the naval spent nuclear fuel handling infrastructure currently provided within the aging Expended Core Facility (ECF) at NRF by constructing a new facility in the northeast section of the NRF site. This action will provide the infrastructure necessary to support the naval nuclear reactor defueling and refueling schedules required to meet the operational needs of the U.S. Navy.

Building a new facility will improve long-term capacity, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and reduce long‑term costs and risks. A major benefit of the new facility is that the facility would be built to current design and construction standards. A new facility will improve the ability of the NNPP to meet long-term mission needs and anticipated future production capacities. Another benefit will be the enhanced ability to meet the Settlement Agreement, as amended in 2008, among the State of Idaho, the DOE, and the Navy concerning the management of naval spent nuclear fuel.

The estimated cost of the new facility is about $1.65 billion, including over $500 million in construction costs. During construction of the new facility there is projected to be an increase of approximately 360 on-site construction jobs. Site preparation work for the new facility is expected to begin in 2017 and facility construction is expected to begin in 2019 and continue through the early 2020s. Construction would be expected to occur over five years during this period with operations expected to commence in late 2024.

The mission of the NNPP, also known as Naval Reactors, is to provide militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants and ensure their safe, reliable, and long-lived operation. Since 1957, naval spent nuclear fuel removed from naval reactors at shipyards or prototypes has been transferred to specially designed shipping containers and transported to the NRF via rail.

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