Thursday, March 24, 2016

Local officials report on 'Community to Capital' trip to D.C.

Rebecca Casper
Eastern Idaho has been sending its leaders to Washington, D.C., since the late 1940s, when Mayor Tom Sutton and attorney Bill Holden flew out of Fanning Field to lobby the Atomic Energy Commission on behalf of Idaho Falls.

Just as the eastern Idaho desert became where Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 was built, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham say the region is poised to become the place where small modular reactors are demonstrated to the world.

The two were part of a “Community to Capital” group that traveled to Washington in mid-March to meet with members of Congress and officials from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Navy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Although the Idaho National Laboratory’s continued mission was at the top of their agenda, they were keen to gauge what sort of support there was in the capital for a proposal by the UAMPS and an Oregon company called NuScale to build small modular reactors on the desert.

Dana Kirkham
The reaction was positive from everyone they met. “It reinforced that we are at the top of the list,” Kirkham.

DOE announced in February that it had granted a site use permit to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, of which Idaho Falls Power is a member, allowing UAMPS access to the INL site to analyze environmental, safety, and siting conditions for its Carbon Free Power Project.

If UAMPS identifies a suitable area for the project within the DOE site boundary, and if the department determines it would not conflict with INL mission work, the design, construction and operation would be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, following extensive safety and environmental reviews. Officials from NuScale, a subsidiary of Fluor said they have targeted 2025 as the date for having a project online.

If all goes as planned, “We should be prepared to host an onslaught of international visitors,” Casper said.

Casper and Kirkham were accompanied on the trip by Richard Holman, president of the Partnership for Science and Technology; Mike Hart of Communication Designs, the partnership’s past-president; Jerry Stenquist, an attorney with Moffatt Thomas; and Jan Rogers, CEO of REDI for Eastern Idaho.

Rogers, who came to eastern Idaho from the Magic Valley in 2015, said the trip was an eye opener. While she has always recognized the INL’s economic significance to the area, what she heard from the people she met convinced her of the lab’s importance on a national level.

“As a first-time participant, I was impressed with their interaction and engagement,” she said. “It wasn’t platitudinal in any way.”