Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rexburg Motorsports hosting annual food drive

Rexburg Motorsports is looking to give back to local families in need with its annual Stuff the Side-by-Side Food Drive. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 outside Broulim's in Rexburg. To help support the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership (EICAP) Rexburg Outreach Office, Rexburg Motorsports is looking for donations of new or unopened food and household items to stuff a Honda Pioneer Side-by-Side with a half-ton of food.

The Rexburg Outreach Office is seeking donations for the following unexpired items: canned meats, canned tomatoes, cereals, dry goods, laundry and dishwasher detergent, cleaning supplies, and various hygiene items.

The Honda Pioneer is equipped to hold up to 1,000 pounds of donations in the seats, bed, and storage compartments. Rexburg Motorsports is hoping the vehicle's capacity will be exceeded before the event concludes.

To donate, simply stop by the Broulim’s in Rexburg and place your donations in the side-by-side parked outside the store. All items received will be housed in the food bank in Rexburg and be distributed to families in need in the Madison County area.

“We're always looking for ways to help out the community,” said Mike Vickers, owner of Rexburg Motorsports. "The food drive is a fun way for us to accomplish that and to encourage others to get involved."

For further information regarding the food drive or Rexburg Motorsports in general, contact Matt Dyer at 208-356-4000 or via email at mdyer@gearhead.com.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Costco site plan proposes three entrances, keeping roundabout

Here's the layout of the Costco development at Lincoln Road and 25 East (Hitt Road).
We had a question from a reader some time back about the effect Costco, scheduled to open sometime next year, will have on local traffic, and whether the roundabout at Lincoln Road and 25 East (Hitt Road) will remain.

Going by the Transportation Impact Study prepared for the city of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County by Kittelson & Associates, it looks like the roundabout, expanded in 2018, will remain. Kittelson is recommending three access points -- one on Lincoln and two on Hitt.

The full report can be found here -- TRANSPORTATION IMPACT STUDY | Idaho Falls Costco  -- but if you'd rather not scroll through 71 pages here are the passages we found most informative.

Proposed Development Plan
▪ Kittelson maintains a database of traffic data and travel characteristics for Costco Wholesale. This information was used to estimate the trip generation for Costco Wholesale during the weekday PM and Saturday midday peak hours.
o The  proposed  Costco warehouse  and  fuel  station  and  outparcel  are estimated  to generate 7,045 daily net new trips, 707 weekday PM peak hour net new trips, and 988 Saturday midday peak hour net new trips.
▪ The distribution pattern for site-generated trips was estimated based on Costco Wholesale’s prediction of potential members in the area, a review of the proposed access locations and adjacent  roadway  system,  existing  traffic  patterns, and  insights  from  the  City  and  County staff.
▪ The proposed development plan includes two access points on 25th East and one access point on Lincoln Road. For initial analysis purposes, these three access points were assumed to be unsignalized, full-movement accesses.

Off-Site Intersections
▪ No improvements are recommended at the off-site intersections as part of the Costco warehouse and fuel station development. ... The  results  of  the  study  indicate  that  the  proposed Idaho  Falls  Costco can  be  constructed  while maintaining  acceptable   traffic   operations   and   safety   at   the   study   intersections,   assuming the recommended mitigation measures are in place.

Site Access Intersections
▪ Site Access A/Lincoln Road -- Construct a full-movement, unsignalized access at Site Access A on Lincoln Road that includes one ingress lane, two egress lanes (southbound left-turn and right-turn lanes),and a westbound right-turn lane.
▪ Site Access B/25th East -- Construct a full-movement, unsignalized access at Site Access B on 25th East that includes one ingress lane, two egress lanes (eastbound left-turn and right-turn lanes), and a southbound right-turn lane at the opening of Costco, plan for a future multilane roundabout at this driveway by reserving the space needed for a multilane roundabout design, and participate in a cost-sharing of the roundabout. The multilane roundabout would be installed at a future date when deemed necessary by traffic volumes, traffic operations at this driveway, and development of the property to the east.
▪ Site Access C/25th East -- Construct a full-movement, unsignalized access at Site Access C on 25th East that includes one ingress lane and one egress lane (shared westbound left-turn and right-turn lane).
▪ Maintain adequate sight distance at Site Access A, B, and C by limiting the shrubbery and landscaping.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

CHC Foundation announces Fall 2019 grants

An aerial view of Community Hospital on South Boulevard. Originally called Sacred Heart and later called Parkview, the money from its sale and demolition in the 1980s formed the basis of the CHC Foundation, which awards grants in eastern Idaho twice each year.
The CHC Foundation Board of Directors has announced its Fall 2019 grant awards: $341,652 to 20 recipients.


The foundation is based in Idaho Falls and serves Bonneville County and nine surrounding counties. It dates back to 1985, when it was created with money from the liquidation of Parkview Hospital in Idaho Falls. Originally Sacred Heart Hospital, then Community Hospital, Parkview, on South Boulevard across from Tautphaus Park, was part of Idaho Falls Consolidated Hospitals. It was torn down after Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center opened.

CHC awards grants twice a year to 501c(3) non-profit organizations in the 10-county area formerly served by the hospital.


The largest grant this cycle was a $140,000 award to the Museum of Idaho, which is in the process of a major expansion. Other grant award recipients include:
  • The Giving Cupboard, Rigby, $24,000
  • Idaho Falls Humanitarian Center, $1,622
  • City of Mackay, $12,500
  • Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls, $140,000
  • Ronald McDonald Charities, Idaho Falls, $6,000
  • Blackfoot Community Players, $10,000
  • Idaho Falls Arts Council, $7,200
  • Challis Arts Council, $4,000
  • Parker-Elgin School, $9,500
  • Lemhi Historical Society, Salmon, $2,441
  • ABC-After school Literacy Program, Driggs, $1,638
  • Museum of Henry’s Fork, $3,900
  • Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, $20,000
  • Shelley Senior Center, $15,000
  • Teton Regional Land Trust, $7,000
  • Girl Scouts of Silver Sage-Swan Valley, $11,594
  • Promise Ridge Shelter, Idaho Falls, $7,325
  • Snake River Youth Performing Arts, $7,932
  • Idaho Arts Lab, St Anthony, $10,000
  • Veterans Mobility Corps, Idaho Falls/Ucon, $60,000
The CHC Foundation’s next granting session opens Jan. 1, with grant applications accepted through Feb. 26. For information, visit chcfoundation.net.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

INL named winner of four 2019 R&D 100 awards

Idaho National Laboratory has received four R&D 100 awards for 2019. Since they were started by R&D Magazine in 1963, R&D 100 Awards have identified and celebrated the top technology products from the public and private sectors. The U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories typically have dozens of finalists every year.

Winners will be honored Dec. 4-5 at a banquet in San Mateo, Calif., also the site for the fifth annual R&D 100 Conference, an event where leaders from the R&D community can attend multi-disciplinary general sessions and exchange new ideas in innovation and technology transfer.

In the Analytical/Test category, INL took honors with its Electronic Neutron Generator Calibration System and its High-Temperature Irradiation-Resistant Thermocouples (HTIR-TC).

In the IT/Electrical electrical category, it received a joint award with the University of Utah School of Computing for Wireless radio Frequency signal Identification and protocol Reverse Engineering—WiFIRE.

In the Software/Services, INL was recognized for Consequence-driven Cyber-informed Engineering.

INL’s finalists included Lithium-ion battery defect detector, Waste-to-Energy Ionic Gasification Technology (a joint award with Cogent Energy Systems, Inc.), Wireless sensor system for online monitoring of valve position, and HELICS, a project also involving Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Smart Foodservice Warehouse plans grand opening Saturday

The Smartfoodservice Warehouse Store at Lindsay Boulevard and U.S. Highway 20
The Smart Foodservice Warehouse Store at 1240 Lindsay Boulevard will be having its grand opening Saturday, opening its doors at 6 a.m. There will be free food, giveaways and prize drawings. A Business Preview Day is planned for Friday. Local business owners are invited to walk the aisles and meet with vendors. For more information, call (208) 419-0796.

A wholesale food distributor and food service supplier headquartered in Portland, Ore., until recently the chain was known as Cash&Carry Smart Foodservice. The company specializes in food products, chef supplies, wholesale restaurant supplies and catering supplies. The company has been operating throughout the Northwest for more than 60 years.

This is the chain's 509th store. The company has stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and Utah. In addition to Idaho Falls, stores have been scheduled to open this year in Meridian, and Kalispell, Mont. Other stores have opened this year in Salt Lake City, Portland, Ore., Carson City, Nev., and Sacramento, Calif.

The value of the 20,265-square-foot Idaho Falls project was estimated at $2.4 million.

INL inducted into Tech Council's Hall of Fame

Idaho National Laboratory was inducted into the Idaho Technology Council’s Hall of Fame in Boise on Oct. 23.

The Hall of Fame, now in its tenth year, recognizes innovative technology leaders and companies that have made a significant contribution to Idaho’s technology community. Bestowed upon only two inductees each year, this honor recognizes INL as a leader within the state of Idaho, promoting the growth and development of the technology ecosystem, creating new and innovative systems, deploying emerging technologies and pioneering disruptive approaches to solving demanding issues.

At the same ceremony, three INL nominees were recognized at the 14th annual Idaho Innovation Awards, presented by Stoel Rives LLP, Trailhead and the Idaho Technology Council (ITC), with support from Deloitte.

The Advanced Electrolyte Model (AEM) was recognized as a finalist in the Commercialized Innovation of the Year. Developed by Dr. Kevin Gering, AEM is a computer simulation program designed to give fast information on the properties of complex electrolyte formulations and how they can influence the performance of batteries. Since version 1.0 was first made available in 2010, AEM has been licensed to universities and industrial users, including chemical and automotive companies and a major lithium-ion cell manufacturer. Commercialization efforts at INL have been led by Ryan Bills.

Dr. Henry Chu, a Directorate Fellow and the chief technology officer of Defense Systems for National & Homeland Security at INL, was honored as a finalist/winner in the Innovator of the Year category. As the chief research scientist in INL’s Defense Systems Directorate, Chu’s main responsibilities are research and development, demonstration and manufacture of armor grade materials as well as specialized protective systems and solutions for critical military and civilian infrastructures, facilities and installations.

A team of INL researchers had their technology, Wireless radio Frequency signal Identification and protocol Reverse Engineering, or WiFIRE, recognized as a finalist in the Early-Stage Innovation of the Year category. Co-developed with the University of Utah School of Computing, WiFIRE is a breakthrough technology that provides real-time wireless communications security by continuously monitoring the wireless spectrum. WiFIRE revolutionizes protection and analysis by including capabilities for real-time identification of multiple signal types used by different frequencies, tracing system communication activities and reporting the presence of authorized and unauthorized wireless users.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Idaho Falls housing market remains strong

With the third quarter of 2019 over and the holidays almost upon us, we thought it might be a good time to take a look at the local residential real estate market. As usual, for the numbers we consulted our two favorite sources: the Snake River Multiple Listing Service and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s HPI calculator.

What the numbers show is that home prices are continuing to chug along on much the same path as they’ve been on for the past five years. Through the end of August, the number of homes sold was up 7.5% while homes on average spent 11 fewer days on the market. New listings held pretty even, but what is most dramatic is the median price, which rose almost 12 percent.

That’s in line with the numbers we crunched in the House Price Calculator. Your mileage may vary, but if you paid $100,000 in the second quarter of 2018 that would have risen to $112,454 (11.24%), based on market-wide sales averages.

Looking back, a home bought in 2014 would have appreciated in value about the same about every year. It’s a hot market with tight inventory, which means you might want to consult a real estate professional if you've got an itch.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Idaho Falls council votes to expand residential fiber citywide

The dark-shaded areas are where Idaho Falls Fiber currently offers residential service.
In a unanimous vote at a special meeting Thursday night, the Idaho Falls City Council voted to continue expansion of the city’s fiber network to provide high-speed broadband access to all residents within city limits.

In September 2018, the council directed Idaho Falls Fiber to test the economic feasibility of leveraging the existing conduits and infrastructure of Idaho Falls Power to install fiber-optic lines to residential areas. The first customers were connected in March this year, with the final phase of construction completed in early September. This pilot project encompassed approximately 1,250 residential homes.

Meanwhile. Idaho Falls Fiber has been gathering data and evaluating the costs and feasibility of expanding the high-speed fiber network through the rest of the Idaho Falls community. That information was presented to the City Council at Thursday’s meeting. Council members also heard from the residents who have taken part in the pilot program.

At the outset, city leadership envisioned working with local internet providers to bring broadband internet access to the community. During the pilot program, Idaho Falls Fiber worked with four local Internet providers -- Direct Communications, Qwk.net, Silver Star, and SUMO Fiber -- to offer residents a variety of services and pricing.  Idaho Falls Fiber also partnered with UTOPIA Fiber, which owns and operates open access fiber networks in Utah. UTOPIA provided consulting, network design and is Idaho Falls' technology provider for the open access system software.

“Designing a system like this is a complicated operational and engineering function,” said Bear Prairie, Idaho Falls Power director. “That’s why the Council approved the agreement for us to partner with UTOPIA Fiber, a not-for profit entity like Idaho Falls Fiber that has the experience in operating successful networks similar to our design."

The build out of the city wide network is projected to take place over the next four years, starting with areas with the most customers requesting the fiber utility. The network will be built in areas that are served by Idaho Falls Power, which is also a not-for-profit electric utility owned by the city and its residents.

The network and areas of future expansion community can be viewed at www.idahofallsfiber.com or at Idaho Falls Fiber’s office at 140 S. Capital Avenue. Customers can pre-sign up for the high speed fiber network service online or in person, which will help direct Idaho Falls Fiber determine the most under-served areas first.

Idaho Falls Power dates back to 1900, when it was established to provide limited street lighting in downtown, drawing power from a hydro-electric generator in a local canal hydro project. Today it has five run-of-river hydro-electric projects and has one of the lowest electric rates in the United States.

Idaho Falls Fiber was formed in 1998 with the construction of a limited fiber network for the power utility. It was expanded in 2002 in order to provide high-bandwidth service to other city and county buildings, educational institutions and commercial businesses.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Oklo fabricates fuel prototypes at Idaho National Laboratory

By Jacqueline Toth, The Morning Consult

The developer of a miniature nuclear reactor said it has successfully demonstrated prototypes of its metallic fuel — a key development for the company and for the U.S. advanced nuclear reactor community, whose years-long timelines to deployment often beget sporadic messaging wins.

Oklo Inc. fabricated fuel prototypes with the Idaho National Laboratory, with multiple prototype fuel elements reaching production specification, for anticipated use in its 1-2 megawatt-electric compact fast reactor, which is intended to generate both process heat and electricity.

The demonstration is “one of the bigger steps on the pathway for us moving towards ultimately submitting a license application and trying our first reactor on,” said Jacob DeWitte, chief executive of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, in an interview ahead of the announcement. The fuel prototype demonstration “ramps well into our plans” to build a commercial unit in the early 2020s, he said.

A very small reactor, DeWitte said, aligns with Oklo’s business model and technology development side. Reactors of Oklo’s size are geared especially toward use in remote areas, such as on islands or in Alaska, that often rely on expensive and emitting diesel fuel for energy.

For the full story, follow this link: Oklo Fuel.



Wednesday, October 16, 2019

INL seeking non-profit economic development grant applicants

Idaho National Laboratory is taking applications from non-profit organizations interested in participating in its 2020 Technology-based Economic Development Campaign.

The TBED program’s mission is to stimulate economic development, support new technology, recruit new talent and encourage entrepreneurship throughout Idaho. To achieve these goals, grants for several different types of projects are being offered:

Projects that support INL missions related to energy, environment and national security.
Projects that could ultimately benefit INL and its ability to attract and maintain talent in Idaho.
Statewide projects that strengthen energy, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity supply chains.

Organizations must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities. A copy of the IRS tax-exempt letter must accompany the form.

The deadline for 2020 donation requests is Nov. 15. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be included in the review process. Decisions will be made by Dec. 17. Notifications will be sent to requesting organizations informing them of funding awards. Funds will be for projects for the period of Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020.

For full details on all programs, visit INL’s website, www.inl.gov. Links can be found by clicking on Partner With INL in the top right corner of the page, then choosing Economic and Workforce Development. This is also where the INL Tech-based Economic Development Request Form 2020 can be found.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

State of Idaho, Idaho National Laboratory celebrate opening of new buildings

Idaho National Laboratory, the Idaho State Board of Education, and the Idaho State Building Authority officially opened two brand-new buildings in Idaho Falls Monday: the Cybercore Integration Center (CIC) and the Collaborative Computing Center (C3).

Held at the C3 facility, the ribbon-cutting ceremony included remarks by INL Director Mark Peters; Robert Boston, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho Operations Office; Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin; Idaho State Board of Education member Dave Hill; Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee; University of Idaho President C. Scott Green; and V.L. “Bud” Tracey, chairman of the Idaho State Building Authority. Open houses and tours of both facilities were offered.

Totaling close to 150,000 square feet, the C3 and CIC buildings represent an endeavor by the state and INL to expand collaboration and employment opportunities for Idaho university students. Construction of the new buildings was financed by an almost $90 million bond approved by the Idaho Legislature in March 2017. INL and the state of Idaho have a long history of collaboration and partnership through joint research programs with Idaho’s three public universities – Idaho State University, Boise State University and University of Idaho – state agencies, and private industry. Like the nearby Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), which opened in 2009, CIC and C3 are owned by the state and leased to INL.

The Cybercore Integration Center will serve as a research, education and training facility for cybersecurity work. The state-of-the-art collaboration facility brings together federal, state, academic and private industry representatives to jointly design and develop resilient infrastructure that can withstand current and future threats, ranging from cyberattacks to natural disasters. It contains reconfigurable and electronic laboratory space, training and demonstration areas, and office suites, all focused on securing the nation’s critical infrastructure control systems and related components.

The Collaborative Computing Center will soon be the new home of INL’s Falcon and Lemhi supercomputers, and next year will welcome Sawtooth, expected to be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the Pacific Northwest when it goes online. Students from across Idaho already access the modeling and simulation capabilities of Falcon and Lemhi through the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON).

"These facilities not only will enhance INL's supercomputing and cybersecurity capabilities, but also serve Idaho's university students and faculty for decades to come," said INL Director Mark Peters. "All of us at INL are proud to partner with the state to educate and train our students for great career opportunities, and we're thankful to everyone who made this possible."

“The construction and opening of these facilities would never have happened had the leaders at the state of Idaho and INL not come together in partnership,” said Idaho State Board of Education member David Hill. “This really is a reimagining of higher education and the pooling of available resources within our state to build an integrated educational ecosystem for Idaho.”

Monday, October 14, 2019

Community invited to discussion about Chernobyl miniseries

Earlier this year, HBO released a five-part drama on the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The series has sparked public questions about the safety of nuclear energy, radiation risks and whether such an accident could happen in the United States.

As the nation’s nuclear energy research laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory has extensive experience developing, demonstrating and evaluating different reactor concepts; handling nuclear fuel and materials; conducting post-accident analyses; and keeping employees and the public safe from radiation exposure. INL experts understand nuclear energy and the events at Chernobyl and are eager to share what they know.

The lab has organized a series of expert panels to answer the public’s questions about Chernobyl, nuclear safety and radiation. Experts in reactor design, safe operational practices, radiation and the Chernobyl accident itself will be available for hour-long Q&As in both Idaho Falls and Pocatello.

All interested citizens are invited to attend. Bring your smartphone to participate in interactive polling about topics of interest. Attendees will be able to sign up for INL tours and can submit questions beforehand to nuclearquestions@inl.gov.

Here is a link to video from the first Chernobyl panel, held at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies: https://idahonationallaboratory.app.box.com/s/rp53axarnhzg578l5uxpvx42lqsyvelw

Locations, dates and times:

Tuesday, Oct. 15
1 p.m., College of Eastern Idaho, 1600 S. 25th E., Building 3, room 306, Idaho Falls
5 p.m., Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, 300 S. Capital Ave., Idaho Falls

Wednesday, Oct. 16
7 p.m., Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, 300 S. Capital Ave., Idaho Falls

Thursday, Oct. 17
7 p.m., ISU Physical Science Building, room 140, 921 S. 8th Ave. (corner of 8th and Carter), Pocatello

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Bank of Idaho Holding Co. stock now trading over the counter

Jeff Newgard
OTC Markets Group Inc. announced Oct. 2 that Bank of Idaho Holding Co. has qualified to trade on the OTCQX Best Market. Bank of Idaho Holding Co. was previously privately-held.

“We are pleased to welcome Bank of Idaho Holding Co., the first Idaho-based institution to join the OTCQX Best Market,” said Jason Paltrowitz, executive vice president of Corporate Services at OTC Markets Group. “Bank of Idaho Holding Co. is the fifteenth community bank to join the OTCQX market this year, to provide investors with greater transparency and more efficient trading. We look forward to supporting Bank of Idaho Holding Co. in the public market.”

Bank President and CEO, Jeff Newgard shared: “We are truly excited to be the first Idaho-based bank to join the OTCQX Best Market Group. As a bank, we are focused on supporting small business, the lifeblood of our economy in Idaho. By providing innovative tools and expert guidance, we seek to become the best community bank in the state. We're excited for the opportunities that lie ahead, and we have our sights set on a bright future for Bank of Idaho and the shareholders of Bank of Idaho Holding Co.”

Bank of Idaho Holding Co. was organized in 1997 as the parent company for Bank of Idaho, which received its state banking charter in September 1985. With total assets of $375 million and growing, the Idaho Falls-based bank presently has 9 full-service branches in operation across southern Idaho, with one additional location pending. In addition to retail and commercial banking, Bank of Idaho also offers a full spectrum of trust and investment services, along with mortgage lending.

Bank of Idaho Holding Co. is the sole owner of Bank of Idaho, a state-chartered commercial bank, and trades under the symbol BOID. U.S. investors can find financial disclosures and quotes for the company at www.otcmarkets.com. OTC Markets Group Inc. (OTCQX: OTCM) operates financial markets for 10,000 U.S. and global securities.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Guest Opinion: Rural electric coops need members to lobby for tax law change

Bryan Case
By Bryan Case, Fall River Electric Cooperative CEO

Electric cooperatives throughout rural America, including Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative, face a financial crisis inadvertently caused by Congress. And the weight of this crisis is made even more clear when electric cooperatives must face power restoration costs following natural disasters. If you receive power from Fall River Electric at your business, home or recreational property, this message is specifically for you.

If Fall River Electric, a not-for-profit company, accepted government grants to restore power in the wake of a local natural disaster such as an earthquake, flood, major winter storm or forest wildfire, we could lose our tax-exempt status and be forced to pay back a substantial chunk of that money to the government. A change to federal tax laws in 2017 targeted at for-profit companies has created a requirement for co-ops to count grants from federal, state or local governments as non-member revenue. For Fall River Electric to maintain its tax-exempt status, no more than 15 percent of the Co-op’s annual income can come from sources other than its owner-members.

Here are two examples of how government grants have been used by local electric cooperatives:

Our neighboring electric co-op, Lower Valley Energy in Jackson WY, has a pending multi-
million-dollar grant request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for
the replacement of seventeen 75-foot power poles that were downed during a February 2017
winter storm.

Fall River Electric used a $3.2M grant in 2011 to install advanced metering infrastructure (AMI)
smart meters throughout our service territory as well funding a fiber optic backbone for communications.

Looking ahead to the future, a grant to cover natural disaster recovery or infrastructure improvements could push Fall River over the 15 percent revenue threshold with severe consequences.

This would leave Fall River with an unfair choice: do we take the government grant money we would
need to turn the lights back on after a disaster? Or do we turn down those grants, so we won’t have
to spend our members’ money paying taxes rather than improving service? And if we are forced to
pay taxes on a grant, would we have to increase rates to our members to cover that cost?

According to the Treasury Department, congressional action is the only way to address this issue.
Fortunately, key lawmakers recognize this is an unintended consequence of the 2017 tax bill and
they’re working together toward a solution before it hits home with their rural constituents.
The bipartisan RURAL Act, introduced by Reps. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), will restore certainty and common sense. The bill ensures that co-ops do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants.

Time is running out and lawmakers must pass legislation this year. Passage of the RURAL Act is
essential for America’s rural communities. I urge our owner-members to join this effort by writing to
your Congressional delegates. A draft letter can be found at www.action.coop which can be sent “as
is” to your representatives or used as a guide to draft your own letter.

Once on this website, click the link “Take Action” and follow the three easy steps. Time is of the
essence as this legislation needs to be passed soon so letters should be forwarded as soon as possible.

Bryan Case is CEO/General Manager of Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative, serving nearly
15,000 owner-members in east Idaho, southwest Montana and western Wyoming. Fall River
Electric is committed to safely and economically provide reliable energy and other services which
bring value to its membership.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Three-story office building planned for MK Simpson Boulevard

Looks like another new building will be going up on MK Simpson Boulevard, a three-story, 62,250-square-foot office building just east of Idaho National Laboratory’s Energy Systems Laboratory.

A permit application was filed Oct. 7 with the City of Idaho Falls Building Department by Voigt Consulting. The value of the project, at 650 MK Simpson Boulevard, is estimated at $7.5 million.

The building will be located on 4.5 acres, and be the next addition to a campus that is already booming. A ribbon cutting is planned for Monday at the Cybercore Integration Center (CIC) and Collaborative Computing Center (C3), projects funded by the State of Idaho that will house INL’s supercomputers and cyber-research.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Directors named for National Reactor Innovation Center

Dr. Ashley Finan
Following a nationwide search, Dr. Ashley Finan has been selected as director of the Idaho National Laboratory-based National Reactor Innovation Center, and Nicholas Smith has been selected to serve as deputy director. As NRIC directors, Finan and Smith will lead efforts to accelerate the testing, demonstration and commercialization of innovative reactor technologies in the United States.

"Building and operating advanced reactors is essential to U.S. leadership in nuclear energy, and these roles are essential to achieving that goal," said Dr. John Wagner, associate director of INL's Nuclear Science & Technology directorate. "Ashley has played a key role in the formation of the policy that made NRIC possible. She and Nicholas are ideally suited to develop and implement the NRIC vision."

Authorized by the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), NRIC will provide resources to test, demonstrate, and assess performance of new nuclear technologies, critical steps that must be completed before they are available commercially. Through NRIC, developers will gain access to the strategic infrastructure and assets of the national laboratories. These capabilities will support a timely and cost-effective path to licensing and commercializing new nuclear systems, which will generate carbon-free electricity and contribute to the decarbonization of major economic sectors.

Nicholas Smith
Finan served most recently as executive director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, a non-profit think tank working to enable nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change. Prior to her work with NIA, Finan led nuclear innovation programs at Clean Air Task Force. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“NRIC will play a pivotal role in decarbonization by empowering trailblazing companies to demonstrate and commercialize the next generation of nuclear technologies,” Finan said. “I’m inspired by our innovators, labs, and policymakers and their commitment to tackling global challenges. I’m dedicated to leading NRIC to enable demonstration of advanced technology that will achieve our energy, security, and environmental goals, while sustaining the U.S. nuclear fleet’s tradition of excellence.”

Smith has worked with the research and development organization of Atlanta-based Southern Company since 2010, most recently as principal engineer. In this role, he oversaw a Generation IV nuclear reactor R&D program and was responsible for collaboration with reactor designers, national labs and policymakers, and early engagement with regulators. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Diego State University, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from North Carolina State University. 

“NRIC will provide on-the-ground capabilities to accelerate nuclear technology readiness from proof-of-concept through proof-of-operations,” said Wagner. “Ashley and Nicholas are the right team to lead NRIC and make advanced reactor demonstrations a reality.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New recovery center opening in Idaho Falls

Brick House Recovery, a faith-based substance abuse treatment program, will be holding a grand opening Thursday afternoon of its new location in Idaho Falls, at 2020 Landbank Street.

The event will be from noon to 7 p.m., with tours of the building and refreshments. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 2 p.m.

"We'd like to invite everyone to join us and celebrate the grand opening! Our goal is to provide a house of healing and a gathering place for both the addicted and their family members in this area,” said Jason Coombs, who founded Brick House Recovery five years ago in Boise. Coombs said he was responding to an aching need for high-quality, private, faith-based addiction recovery.

“We chose the name ‘Brick House Recovery’ in order to reflect a specific idea,” he said. “We believe that a healthy, sober lifestyle is built much like a house: from the ground up. Both start with a strong foundation and a practical frame. Many people in recovery are eager for immediate, visible results. It’s as if they’re investing in the paint color and light fixtures when they haven’t yet built a strong foundation in the ground, let alone the framework.”

The Idaho Falls center will be the organization’s second facility. For more information, call (208) 650-7359.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I.F.-based Bank of Idaho opens second Boise branch

Bank of Idaho continues its expansion in western Idaho today with its second Boise location, at 6981 W. Overland Road.

This newest Boise office will be the bank's ninth full-service branch. Bank of Idaho started as Bank of Eastern Idaho in 1985 and remains a community bank focused on the advancement of small businesses, providing tools and support that help build personal long-term relationships with their clients.

“We work hard to learn about our customers," Bank President and CEO Jeff Newgard said. "We strive to gain a deep understanding of their goals and aspirations, so we can anticipate their needs and give them the right tools to succeed. Pair that philosophy with decisions that are made right here at the local level, and it truly sets us apart from many of our competitors."

The Bank of Idaho Overland Branch team will be made up of some familiar faces from the area: Charlie Kouba, V.P. Commercial Banking Manager, Surbir Chadha, V.P. Commercial Loan Officer, Caroline Kennedy, Retail Branch Manager, Katelyn Shaw, Loan Assistant, and Lacy Beck, Universal Banking Associate.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Snake River Landing breaks ground on new office building

Ball Ventures founder Allen Ball (left) and Cortney Liddiard, the company's CEO, chat with executives from Okland Construction  Wednesday at the groundbreaking for The Knolls, a new office building scheduled to open in fall 2020.
Snake River Landing continued its southward expansion Wednesday by breaking ground on The Knolls, a contemporary-styled office building at the corner of Snake River Parkway and Event Center Drive.

The three-story, 60,000-square-foot, building will house the corporate headquarters of Ball Ventures, the Idaho Falls-based developer that began Snake River Landing in 2006. The company’s chief development officer, Eric Isom, said other tenants will be announced in the next three months. The building is scheduled to be completed in  fall 2020.

In addition to Snake River Landing, Ball Ventures is a co-developer of Sandcreek Commons, the shopping center in Ammon. Overall, the company has projects in nine or 10 states totaling about 3.3 million square feet, Isom said.

Like the Waterfront, a smaller event center that opened in 2017, the Knolls represents a departure from the “old Main Street” style of the original Snake River Landing buildings, Isom said. It comes at the end of a summer that saw a large expansion of the nearby Falls apartment complex. A site plan for the nearby Idaho Falls Events Center has been filed with the city’s building department (link here).

Isom said the 450-acre master-planned development is about where they projected it to be when they first broke ground. “We lost four years during the recession, but I think we’re where we thought we would be because of the growth in the last few years,” he said. The Idaho Falls area has seen a dramatic in-migration of people from other states, creating one of the hotter real estate markets in the United States.

“Housing and rooftops drive everything else,” Isom said. “There’s been a lot of positive press about the quality of life here.”

Businesses involved in the design and construction of the Knolls include Dixon and Associates, Horrocks Engineers, Bradley Engineering, HK Contractors, and Okland Construction. Brent Wilson of Thornton Oliver Keller is the listing agent.




Sunday, September 22, 2019

Costco site plan undergoes second review by city

A screenshot of the first page of the latest Costco site plan
This isn’t much, but since the interest in Costco is so intense I figured it was important to report that the plan for the site at 2495 Lincoln Road has gone through its second review with the city of Idaho Falls Building Department.

This is at the northwestern corner of Lincoln and Hitt, although you can’t really call it a corner because there is a roundabout there. If you’d like to see the documents and PDFs, this is the link: https://trakit.idahofallsidaho.gov/etrakit3/Search/project.aspx.

The 150,000-square-foot store is expected to open in August 2020. The facility will also include a 15-30 pump fueling station.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

INL engineer to talk about NASA missions at chamber CEO Series program

Kelly Lively, manager of INL's Radioisotope Power Systems department
The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce will host Kelly Lively of Idaho National Laboratory as its featured speaker Sept. 26, part of its monthly CEO Series programs.

Lively is the manager of INL's Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) department and also a project manager for NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission. She manages a team of engineers and technicians that manufactures, fuels, tests and delivers radioisotope thermo-electric generator (RTG) systems for NASA's deep space exploration missions. RTG systems convert the heat generated by the decay of plutonium oxide fuel into electrical energy.

Lively will share information on the technology and the INL processes that enable these scientific missions. She will also provide the latest information on three space missions in which INL has had hand: New Horizons (which passed Pluto in 2015 and is now exploring the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the Solar System), the Mars Science Laboratory (which includes the Curiosity Rover), and the Mars 2020 Rover (yet to be named).

Lively started working at Naval Reactors Facility 1985 as a human resources administrative assistant. She bounced around the lab, working in word processing and security, and eventually decided to pursue an engineering degree. "As I typed procedures for the engineering staff, I thought, 'If they can do this, I can do this,'" she told The Oklahoman in 2013. She graduated with a bachelor's in engineering from Idaho State University in 1998.

The event is open to the community and will be begin at 3 p.m. at the Waterfront at Snake River Landing, 1220 Event Center Drive. Questions from audience members will be taken. There is no charge for the event, but space is limited. Please RSVP to programs@idahofallschamber.com to reserve a spot.

Snake River Landing to break ground on new office building

The site for a new 60,000-square-foot office building at Snake River Landing, at the corner of Snake River Parkway and Event Center Drive
Snake River Landing is holding a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. for a new three-story office building planned for Snake River Parkway and Event Center Drive. The 60,000-square-foot office building, located at the heart of the 450-acre Snake River Landing multi-use development, is scheduled to be finished in late summer of 2020.

The new office building is owned by an affiliate of Snake River Landing. The following businesses are involved in the design and construction: Dixon and Associates, Horrocks Engineers, HK Contractors, Okland Construction.

The new office building is the latest growth development for Snake River Landing, which in July announced the expansion of Love at First Bite and is also seeing a new addition to The Falls Apartments, with developer Kartchner Inc. adding 96 units addition to the original 228-unit apartment complex that opened in 2017. Idahoan Foods is in the process of remodeling 900 Pier View Drive in Snake River Landing for its new corporate headquarters. Construction on the new Event Center Drive roadway is wrapping up this fall, and construction on the new Heritage Park continues with the city of Idaho Falls.

“Many companies are expanding or seeking to locate in Idaho Falls, and we are ready to help them find the kind of space and experience they seek,” said Eric Isom, Snake River Landing’s chief development officer. “There are new residential options here, commercial space under construction and available for pre-lease, and a growing number of people who are choosing to live and work within this community. It’s a pleasure to see companies expand and grow here.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

INL to collaborate with 3 commercial utilities on hydrogen production from nuclear plants

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio, will be the first site to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen using nuclear energy. (Photo by Bill Rayburn, Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station)
Three commercial electric utilities and Idaho National Laboratory have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy for projects intended to improve the long-term economic competitiveness of the nuclear power industry.

The utility participants are FirstEnergy Solutions of Akron, Ohio; Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based energy company that owns and operates two nuclear plants in Minnesota; and Arizona Public Service (APS), a Phoenix-based utility that operates Palo Verde Generating Station.

The three projects are involved in DOE’s effort to support development and demonstration of commercial applications that pair nuclear energy with a hybrid, non-electric application to produce hydrogen. DOE announcement for these projects and others can be found on this link: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/us-department-energy-awards-152-million-advanced-nuclear-technology-0.

“These first-of-a-kind projects represent significant advances for improving the long-term economic competitiveness of the light water reactor industry,” said Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, based at INL. “They will enable the production of commodities such as hydrogen in addition to electricity from commercial nuclear power plants. These projects also accelerate the transition to a national hydrogen economy by contributing to the use of hydrogen as a storage medium for production of electricity, as a zero-emitting transportation fuel, or as a replacement for industrial processes that currently use carbon-emitting sources in hydrogen production.”

The two-year project led by FirstEnergy Solutions will initially demonstrate and deploy a 1- to 3-MWe low-temperature electrolysis unit to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen. The first site, planned for 2020, is FirstEnergy Solution’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio. The project will demonstrate how hydrogen from commercial nuclear operations can be used to produce “green” products and commodities in significant quantities for domestic use and for export to international markets where green and low-carbon attributes are incentivized. Hydrogen from Davis-Besse may initially be used to supply public transportation fleets in Ohio, in new direct iron reduction plants being constructed to produce steel products, or for other commercial products now under investigation.

“Thanks to the support provided to our Ohio nuclear plants by the state of Ohio, we are able to work with DOE to explore new methods of keeping nuclear power plants competitive in any economic environment," said Raymond Lieb, senior vice president of Fleet Engineering for FirstEnergy Solutions. "This is a great opportunity to show that hydrogen can be effectively generated in a carbon-free and safe manner.”

The second project, planned for 2021, will occur at an Xcel Energy nuclear site and employ hydrogen production technologies that might be used to reduce the environmental impact of industrial processes or in the transportation sector. Redirecting nuclear energy from electricity to hydrogen production could help balance the electrical grid with the increasing amount of wind and solar energy on the system. The company has also been testing flexible operations at its nuclear plants, but hydrogen could create an entirely new value stream. Xcel Energy plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent in the Upper Midwest by 2030 (from 2005 levels) and is pursuing a vision to provide electricity from 100 percent carbon-free sources by 2050.

”We’ve challenged our nuclear employees to find innovative ways to operate more efficiently, use technology, pursue new ideas and reduce costs to make our plants more valuable for our customers,” said Tim O’Connor, chief nuclear officer, Xcel Energy. “Projects like this hydrogen demonstration will ensure our nuclear plants continue to help Xcel Energy provide reliable, affordable carbon-free electricity for the Upper Midwest.”

The third project, planned for 2020-2022, will occur at APS’ Palo Verde Generating Station near Phoenix, Arizona. Hydrogen from the plant may be used as energy storage for use in reverse-operable electrolysis or peaking gas turbines during times of the day when photovoltaic solar energy sources are unavailable and energy reserves in the Southwest are low -- also to support a growing hydrogen transportation fuel market. Experience from this pilot project will offer valuable insights into methods for flexible transitions between electricity and hydrogen generation missions in solar-dominated electricity markets and demonstrate how hydrogen may be used as energy storage to provide electricity during operating periods when solar is not available.

“This project allows us to explore a new form of energy storage while continuing to provide customers what they want – clean, affordable and reliable electricity,” said Bob Bement, APS's executive vice president and chief nuclear officer.

Hallbert said, “These demonstration projects will confirm how commercial nuclear utilities can produce — without carbon emissions — essential products, like hydrogen, at a scale needed by industry. Nuclear energy can help meet the significant demand for hydrogen and other synthesized products while helping industrial users reduce their own carbon footprints.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Staybridge Suites hotel planned for Idaho Falls

A typical Staybridge Suites layout
It looks like Idaho Falls will be getting another hotel, as an erosion control permit has been filed for a Staybridge Suites hotel on Pioneer Road near Deseret Book.

The city of Idaho Falls Building Department approved the permit on Aug. 21. The applicant is The Koehler Organization of Aberdeen, S.D., and the owner is listed as JPK TR Idaho Falls, LLC, also out of Aberdeen.

Staybridge Suites is an all-suite, residential-style brand of hotels within the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the company that also owns Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites. The brand targets extended-stay and corporate travelers.

The chain was founded in 1997, and the first hotel opened the following year in Alpharetta, Ga. According to the company's website, it has more than 220 hotels in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Chamber announces Distinguished Under 40 honorees

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce (GIFCC) has announced its 2019 Distinguished Under 40 honorees. The annual awards program honors 10 eastern Idaho young professionals who have excelled in their careers, community, and education. Co-workers, managers, and business associates nominate the young professionals.

A panel of GIFCC board members selected the honorees from 40 nominations received this year. The 2019 honorees are:
  • Clint Reading, College of Eastern Idaho
  • Jacob Workman, Idaho Falls Office of Idaho Legal Aid Services
  • Leela Abrahamson, Shoshone-Bannock Casino Hotel
  • Lezhai Gulbransen, Bonneville Youth Development Council
  • Lupita Fuentes, Northwest Cosmetic Labs
  • Matt Larsen, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center
  • Micah Austin, City of Ammon
  • Miranda Marquit, Miranda Marquit Freelancing
  • Stuart Draper, Stukent
  • Tim Sopalski, Bank of Commerce
The recipients will be honored at a luncheon held at the Downtown Event Center on Sept. 24 at noon. To attend the luncheon, please reserve your spot at https://idahofallschamber.com/event/distinguished-under-40/. Tickets are $20 for Chamber members and $25 for non-Chamber members.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

First Street reopens, new and improved; North Boulevard work starts Monday

Good news, eastsiders, the city of Idaho Falls has reopened First Street between Fanning Avenue and St. Clair Road.

The newly paved stretch reopened Wednesday at 5 p.m., in time for the evening commute. The summer project, which started July 8, involved replacing the water line from Lomax Street to the Idaho Canal, also storm drain improvements and road reconstruction. Idaho Falls Power replaced aging street lights and Davey Tree Service trimmed trees away from power lines.

The roadway was completely closed to provide a safe work environment for construction crews and to expedite the project. It was completed on schedule, according a press release from the city.

Beginning Monday, Union Pacific Railroad crews will be reconstructing two railroad crossings on North Boulevard, just north of Science Center Drive. Motorists should plan alternate routes.

This is likely to affect people who work in the INL Research Center and employees of Northwest Cosmetics Laboratory. But the tie-rod ends and shocks in their cars and trucks will be a lot better off.

The anticipated completion time is one week, barring unforeseen conditions. Motorists should avoid the area and plan alternate routes. Traffic will be detoured to 29th North (Stanley Street). The Idaho Falls Street Division will be providing traffic control.

Additional information on City of Idaho Falls construction projects can be found on the homepage of the city’s website or by clicking HERE

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ronald McDonald Family Room at EIRMC slated to open Friday

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho will be holding a ribbon-cutting at noon Thursday for the brand new Ronald McDonald Family Room at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. The remodeling of what was office space has been going on since April. When it officially opens on Friday, it will provide a “home away from home” for families with ill or injured children.

Following the Ribbon Cutting, RMHC of Idaho will be hosting a Community Open House from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Community members are invited to come tour the space, enjoy some refreshments, and learn how about how the Family Room will bring comfort to families.

In preparation for the program’s first day, RMHC of Idaho is also asking the community to help “stock the Family Room.” To ensure the space has everything needed to support families, they’ve put together an online wish list. The community can help by purchasing items off this wish list and either having them shipped straight to the Family Room or dropping them off during the open house.

When children are sick, the thing they need most is family. The Ronald McDonald Family Room will provide a home-like environment for parents and families of children receiving treatment at EIRMC. It will allow families a quiet place to get something to eat, take a shower, do laundry, watch tv, take a nap, or even stay the night, steps away from their hospitalized child. The Family Room will be staffed by RMHC of Idaho employees and through the generous efforts of community volunteers.

For more information about the Family Room visit rmhcidaho.org/familyroom.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Idaho Innovation Center announces classes for small business

The Idaho Innovation Center is holding several classes and workshops aimed at helping small businesses. A non-profit business incubator, IIC regularly partners with the Small Business Development Center and the Regional Development Alliance to assist business owners with business needs. Consultation and counseling are provided for free.

If you are interested in these services, call (208) 523-1026 to set up an appointment.

Here is a list of upcoming events.

Aug. 30, 10:30-noon: New tax law and financial strategies for small business. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cultivating-your-business-tax-financial-strategies-for-smallbusinesstickets-69217119267

Sept. 9, 6-9 p.m.: QuickBooks class. Meets 9/9, 9/11, 9/16, 9/18, 9/23. Fee:  $199

Sept. 18, noon-2 p.m.: Elevating Your Business class. Meets every Wednesday for 7 weeks. A fun class that will help you learn to market your business more effectively. Fee: $149

Sept. 27, 10:30-noon: Human Resources for Small Business. Free workshop. Registration through Eventbrite mid-September.

Oct. 25, 10:30-noon: Advertising and Marketing. FreeE workshop. Registration through Eventbrite mid-October.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Center for Advanced Energy Studies to receive NuScale control room simulator

Young guests SCRAM a NuScale Power Module on a control room simulator during a Friends & Family Day in Oregon. The Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls is slated to get a NuScale simulator in the next year, courtesy of a grant announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday it has awarded three grants to support the installation of NuScale reactor plant simulators at Oregon State University, Texas A&M University-College Station, and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) in Idaho Falls.

NuScale is the Corvallis, Oregon-based company that is collaborating with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) on the Carbon Free Power Project. The project involves installation of 12 small modular reactors (SMRs) at Idaho National Laboratory's desert site by the mid-2020s. The facility will be capable of generating 720 megawatts of electricity. NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and only SMR to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is scheduled to complete its design review by September 2020.

The DOE grants are for $843,986 total, of which $285,763 is to build the Idaho Falls simulator at CAES, on MK Simpson Boulevard. CAES is a consortium made up of Idaho National Laboratory, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Boise State University and University of Wyoming.

"Housing the simulator at CAES in will facilitate collaboration with four university research institutions and experts in these fields at INL," said Richard Christensen, the lead collaborator from UI. "This simulator acquisition for these efforts is consistent with the UI's land grant mission to strengthen teaching, scholarly, and creative capacities statewide through new research pathways."

NuScale’s reactor simulator is a virtual nuclear power plant control room that includes an interface that accepts input from operators and displays parameters simulating plant response. The simulator facilitates research into human factors engineering, human-system interface design, advanced diagnostics, cyber security and plant control room automation. When completed, the simulator facilities will be used for research, education, K-12 outreach and public advocacy regarding nuclear power and small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

National Reactor Innovation Center or "NRTS 2.0"? INL gets back to its nuclear roots

U.S. Sens. Jim Risch, left, and Mike Crapo, right, were on hand for the press conference Wednesday announcing the National Reactor Innovation Center coming to Idaho National Laboratory. Between them are DOE-Idaho Director Robert Boston (left) and INL Director Mark Peters. (Photo courtesy eastidahonews.com).
Before the more 21st century-sounding National Reactor Innovation Center was decided on, Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters said he was entertaining “NRTS 2.0” as a name.

NRTS stands for National Reactor Testing Station, which came to eastern Idaho in 1949 with the Atomic Energy Commission and later became INL. In a way, Wednesday’s announcement that INL would be the official home of NRIC marked a return to the lab’s roots, which have never completely gone away.

Over the past 70 years, NRTS/INL was home to 52 reactors, only four of which remain in operation. What Wednesday’s announcement means is that INL is going to be the place for nuclear collaboration between the public and private sectors. That is already happening with the Carbon Free Power Project, which involves INL, NuScale, an Oregon-based subsidiary of Fluor, Inc., and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a consortium of municipally owned electrical utilities, one of which is Idaho Falls Power. If all goes as planned, NRIC will be the site for 12 of NuScale’s prefabricated small modular reactors (SMRs). Licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is well under way, and a startup is anticipated for the mid-2020s.


The NuScale project is anticipated to create around 1,000 construction jobs to eastern Idaho, with a few hundred after the project has gone online. A lot of companies are watching the NuScale/UAMPS project very closely. Aside from the actual reactors, Idaho stands to benefit further from becoming a supply chain hub, Peters said at a press conference Wednesday, also attended by Idaho U.S. Sens, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

NRIC has also been designated as the site for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), a fast-neutron source the DOE has deemed necessary for the next generation of nuclear reactors. Unlike light water reactors and pressurized water reactors, advanced reactors will be cooled by materials such as molten salt and thorium. They offer the possibility of burning spent nuclear fuel from LWRs and PWRs, and thus a solution to the waste disposal problem that continues to dog nuclear development in the United States. But before anything can happen, a lot of testing has to be done and a domestic source of fast neutrons is necessary. This is what Experimental Breeder Reactor-II did at Argonne National Laboratory-West between 1964 and 1994, before it was shut down.

“It’s hard to put an exact number on the amount of reactors that will be demonstrated here,” Peters said. “We’re talking to a lot of companies who have approached the laboratory and the department. I think there are a lot of interested players out there in the nuclear energy space.”

Also on hand for the announcement Wednesday was William D. Magwood IV, director-general of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), an intergovernmental agency under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Magwood was DOE’s Director of Nuclear Energy 20 years ago when he announced at an Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Meeting that INL (then INEEL) had been designated the department’s lead nuclear laboratory.

As the Post Register’s business reporter at the time, I was covering that meeting and cynically thought to myself, “There’s a prize of dubious value.” Nuclear in the United States was at a low ebb in the late 1990s, so it wasn't unreasonable to think this.

A lot has happened in 20 years, but 20 to 30 years is how long it takes anything to happen in the nuclear industry, Peters said. Nuclear energy research in the U.S. might have been hanging on by a thread in 1999, but the threat of climate change and global warming was beginning to register in more and more minds, making carbon-free energy alternatives like nuclear a lot more appealing. In fact, it was a panel of scientific advisers who told President Bill Clinton to keep the nuclear option open.

In 2000, INEEL, Bechtel and Oregon State University researchers began a three-year project called the Multi-Application Small Light Water Reactor (MASLWR), which would become the basis for NuScale.

I have given up on writing stories quoting anyone predicting what they think is going to happen, near- or long-term. But the announcement that INL is returning to its nuclear roots is a big story with big implications for the region.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Idaho Falls Fiber adding new service areas

Idaho Falls Fiber announced Monday that residents on Sycamore Circle, Hickory Lane, Hickory Court, Hickory Circle, Tuscany Drive, Burgundy Drive and Napa Drive can now connect to the Idaho Falls Fiber Network. Customers may sign-up for service or check availability at www.idahofallsfiber.com or call IFF Customer Service at 208-612-8725.

The Residential Fiber Pilot Program officially launched in March with service available to customers between the south side of 17th Street and 21st Street and between Rollandet and South Boulevard, along with the Carriagegate and Waterford subdivisions.

Idaho Falls Fiber has partnered with four local Internet providers, Direct Communications, Qwk.net, Silver Star, and SUMO Fiber, to offer residents a variety of services and pricing. Once residents have signed up for service and selected their provider, Idaho Falls Fiber will schedule a site survey with the customer for the installation of the actual fiber to the residence. Once the fiber is installed, the local Internet provider will begin Internet service.

Construction continues in the third phase of the pilot program as contractors complete electrical and communication infrastructure upgrades. These upgrades, will not only provide access to high-speed Internet with Idaho Falls Fiber, but help Idaho Falls Power better maintain electric service reliability to the homes. Although currently in the pilot phase, customers who sign up will continue to have service even if the network does not expand citywide. There is currently no connection charge for the installation of the fiber line to a home under the pilot program so residents can take advantage of the opportunity the pilot offers to get a fiber connection into the home at no cost.

Pilot program residents should also note that Spliggity, a contractor for Idaho Falls Fiber, will be accessing utility easements to complete work in conjunction with the fiber network upgrade.

Idaho Falls Power and Idaho Falls Fiber expresses their deepest appreciation to customers within the pilot program for their patience and cooperation, especially during this construction phase.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Arbor holding open house through Friday

A promotional shot for The Arbor, a new wedding and reception center at 665 John Adams Parkway.
The Arbor, the event room and ballroom at the AmeriHealth Event Center, 665 John Adams Parkway, is holding an open house this week through Friday. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. every day.

Situated in what used to be First Baptist Church, construction started in July. The remodeling of the late-'50s era structure includes restoration of the hard wood floors to their original state, chandeliers and additional decorative lighting, and curtains and drapes to modify the light from the large stained glass windows.

The center will feature customizable backdrops and venue decoration options, completing bride and groom rooms and landscaping the property. Discounts are available to anyone who wishes to rent prior to the remodeling's completion. Call (208) 520-0247 or email Events@TheArborEventCenter.com for more information.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

DOE files for Versatile Test Reactor environmental impact statement

An artistic rendering of what the Versatile Test Reactor could look like.
The U.S. Department of Energy on Monday announced it has filed a notice of intent to develop an Environmental Impact Statement in its effort to build a Versatile Test Reactor by the mid-2020s. VTR's purpose is to test future fuels and materials for use in advanced power reactors.

Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee have been identified as possible locations for VTR. In addition, INL and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina are two locations being considered for the fabrication of the fuel needed to run the reactor.

“This testing capability is essential for the United States to modernize its nuclear energy infrastructure and for developing transformational nuclear energy technologies that reduce waste generation and enhance nuclear security,” U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a press release.  “Lack of a domestic reactor with versatile fast-neutron-spectrum testing capability is a significant national strategic risk affecting the ability of DOE to fulfill its mission to advance the energy, environmental, and nuclear security of the United States and promote scientific and technological innovation.”

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an EIS is a necessary step for any major project like VTR. "Beginning the NEPA process at this time will ensure that all environmental factors are considered before the department makes a final decision to move forward with the project,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal.

“DOE needs to develop this capability on an accelerated schedule to avoid further delay in the United States’ ability to develop and deploy advanced nuclear energy technologies,” she said. “If this capability is not available to U.S. innovators as soon as possible, the ongoing shift of nuclear technology dominance to other international states such as China and the Russian Federation will accelerate, to the detriment of the U.S. nuclear industrial sector."

During the first steps of this NEPA process, DOE invites the public to comment now through September 4 on what the department should include in the scope of the EIS draft version. Following that, the draft EIS analysis will be published and the public invited to comment on it for 45 days. DOE will evaluate comments before the EIS is made final. When final, the EIS will be published and made available to the public for 30 days before the department can issue a record of decision.

In addition to gathering written comments, DOE will host two interactive webcast scoping meetings to provide information about the VTR and the NEPA processes and gather oral and written comments. The webcast scoping meetings will be held Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. MDT and Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. MDT. To join the webcast scoping meetings by phone, participants can call toll-free in the United States at 877-869-3847.

Broulim's acquires Teton Clinical Pharmacy

Broulim’s Fresh Foods has acquired Teton Clinical Pharmacy and will expand services across eastern Idaho.

The acquisition became official Monday, according to a news release. The Teton Pharmacy on Jafer Court will close but Broulim’s will operate Teton locations on 17th Street in Ammon and West Broadway in Idaho Falls.

“The merging of these two local pharmacy businesses will increase access to healthcare services across southeast Idaho,” Broulim’s Pharmacy Supervisor Marcus Hurs said in the news release. “Teton Pharmacy’s bubble packing, compounding, and delivery services will be added to the Broulim’s locations. Broulim’s point-of-care services will be added to the newly acquired Teton pharmacy locations.”

Customers with Teton or Broulim’s will now be able to pick up prescriptions at any of the combined ten pharmacy locations. Patients can be screened for conditions and prescribed medications by the pharmacist to treat strep throat, urinary tract infections, flu, cold sores, and travel sickness prevention, with more services being planned for the future.

The 17th street location will be remodeled to make room for a new compounding room and bubble packing operation, with Joe Brown as the pharmacy manager. The Broadway location will undergo a few minor changes, with Michelle Misko as manager.

Pharmacy records for the Teton Pharmacy on Jafer Court will be transferred to the Broulim’s Fresh Foods at 2730 E. Sunnyside in Ammon.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Bank of Idaho continues expansion in Treasure Valley

Alan Mullins
Idaho Falls-based Bank of Idaho continues its expansion in the Treasure Valley with the announcement of a loan production office (LPO), now open in downtown Nampa’s Historic Library building at 101 11th  Avenue, Suite 215, Idaho Falls-based Bank of Idaho continues its expansion in the Treasure Valley with the announcement of a Loan Production Office (LPO), in downtown Nampa’s Historic Library building. The new office will offer a complete slate of commercial lending options.

“Bank of Idaho’s values line up directly with mine: developing meaningful relationships with small businesses, and commitment to community.” said Alan Mullins, VP area manager of loan operations. “When I heard that, I was immediately interested in joining their expansion efforts.”

"It’s great to work again for an independent bank that cares about fostering those types of small business relationships,” said Mullins, who started his career as a bank teller in Weiser. “Some of my best friends started out as clients back in the day."

Along with Mullins, the Bank of Idaho Nampa team is made up of Sean Edwards, commercial loan officer and Kelsey Pease, commercial loan assistant. The new office will offer a complete slate of commercial lending options.

Nampa’s Historic Library building was originally built for a bank in 1919. The Bank of Idaho is open now in the former library’s offices on the second story, while the acquisitions team is working to finalize arrangements for a permanent full-service branch location in Nampa.