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New agreement allows INL’s Advanced Test Reactor to continue past 2023

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Advanced Test Reactor nuclear fuel storage canal. | Idaho National Laboratory

BOISE — The governor and attorney general have signed a deal that will keep the Idaho National Lab’s Advanced Test Reactor running past 2023.

INL’s Advanced Test Reactor is used for testing nuclear fuels for the U.S. government and military as well as universities and others in the nuclear energy industry.

But provisions in a 1995 agreement with the Department of Energy led to uncertainty about whether the ATR would continue to operate past 2023. A new agreement between the DOE, Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has remedied that.

“The agreement we just signed ensures the cutting-edge nuclear energy research at the ATR will continue and will be done so safely,” Little said in a news release.

The 1995 settlement agreement between the state of Idaho and the DOE prohibits the storage of spent nuclear fuel in water past 2023.

However, ATR uses an indoor, water-filled canal to cool spent nuclear fuel. The canal is essential to ATR’s operation and the 1995 agreement.

The new agreement allows the ATR facility to continue operating the canal and puts requirements on the DOE on how it will handle the spent fuel.

Under the agreement, the DOE is required to give the state yearly accounting on the fuel in the ATR canal. The agency must also give timelines for how long the spent fuel can remain in the canal before being moved to dry storage and taken out of Idaho.

“I’m pleased with this agreement because it provides certainty to our state regarding how the Department of Energy will manage this particular spent nuclear fuel while also creating an ongoing system of accountability,” Wasden said in a news release.

This is the second deal Little and Wasden have reached with the DOE on the 1995 Settlement Agreement in recent months.

In November, the state reached an agreement outlining how the DOE would begin remedying its breaches of the Settlement Agreement and allow INL to research commercial spent nuclear fuel.

RELATED | New agreement between Idaho and DOE will allow new spent nuclear fuel research at INL

“I am extremely pleased with the improved relationship between our state and the U.S. Department of Energy,” Little said.

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