IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KDIK) - Ground was broken Thursday for the construction of a new $1.65 billion dollar facility on the Naval Reactor's Facility. It will be the largest project the NRF has ever started.
"It's vitally important to what we're going to do for the United States Navy," said Admiral James F. Caldwell, Jr., the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
The purpose of the NRF is to receive, examine, and prepare naval spent nuclear fuel, for storage.
"Every ship that is de fueled, we will move the fuel here for processing and interim packaging. And so you can get an idea of how important this is to the U.S. Navy, because we're refueling some of our ballistic submarines, we're refueling our carriers," said Caldwell.
In order to support the amount of spent nuclear fuel that will be coming in the future, expansion needs to happen. The new Naval Spent Fuel Handling Facility will make sure operations are safe until at least 2060, and perform what the current building does but at a larger capacity.
"Its going to allow us to do our work more efficiently and effectively. It's also going to have improved capacity. It's going to save us money in the way we do our work, and it's going to reduce some of the risk," said Caldwell.
The NSFHF will be 4.9 acres and give the long-term use needed to process and store spent nuclear fuel.
"This has all been done safely. For over 60 years, there's not been a nuclear accident, a leak, a radiation problem, nothing like that because of the application of technology and an incredibly powerful safety culture," said Idaho Falls mayor Rebecca Casper.
"The mental capital that exists out here between all these different sites out here is why everybody looks to the world to leadership for this facility. Whatever it is, it's the chemistry of all the great people that have worked here over generations and that will work here into the future," said Idaho Lt. Govner Brad Little.
Officials would not get into exactly how much spent fuel is on site but they assured that every bit of it is contained and safe, and the new facility will ensure that safety for decades.
"We're really excited about this. Its a huge milestone for the program. It's a huge milestone for the Idaho National Lab and the Naval Reactors Facility and for the state and local folks ere in Idaho. We're thrilled that we're on pace, we're excited about it, and we can't wait to get this facility really going," said Caldwell.
Construction is expected to start in 2019 and the facility is expected to begin operation in 2024.