What will Idaho's nuclear future look like?
That's the short answer from Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy Dr. Peter Lyons during a presentation to the Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) commission in Boise on Tuesday.
The presentation was live-streamed to the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, and the Eastern Idaho Technical College campus in Idaho Falls. Idaho National Lab workers and members of the regional nuclear community watched the satellite feed in Idaho Falls.
Lyons endeavored to paint a picture of where the office may be guiding priorities in the future.
"We have the Idaho National Lab supporting our programs at the lead laboratory for nuclear energy in the country," said Lyons.
Part of the conversation was a possible industry move to SMRs or Small Modular Reactors.
"They start from the basic premise that instead of building a reactor at a site, you build it in a factory and you truck it to the site essentially assembled," said Lyons.
The change is just one of the possible shifts Lyons spoke about on Tuesday. Changes in technology are indicative of the kind of shifts the nuclear research industry may see in the near future, said Lyons.
"We will be a different place five years from now, 10 years from now, than we are today," said Idaho National Lab Energy Workforce Initiatives manager Richard Holman.
Holman said whatever direction nuclear research and development takes, the INL will be there, too.
"The technology changes; we have to change," he said. "I am overwhelmingly confident the Idaho National Lab is going to be around Idaho for a very long time."
The objectives may just look a little different over time, said Lyons. He outlined a few of his goals for nuclear energy in the US including the development of more plants with passive safety measures, with less stress on operators during emergencies.
He said the research and development of accident tolerant fuels is also a priority.
Lyons said one of the primary places the INL can contribute to the nuclear future will be in developing a sustainable fuel cycle, with focus on how to handle used fuels coming out of reactors.