According to The Idaho Statesman, Nuclear experts like the Idaho National Laboratory’s Dave Hill are confident as many as 10 reactors will be built in the next two decades.
“I think it’s pretty clear there will be a nuclear renaissance,” said Hill, the deputy INL director.
Right now it looks like none of the new reactors will go up at the lab or even in Idaho. But the future of the facility eastern Idahoans refer to simply as “The Site” isn’t about the next few years.
It’s about the bonanza it can expect in coming decades, given its 60-year role as the leader in nuclear research and the growing interest in nuclear energy as an alternative to generating electricity without producing greenhouse gases.
The lab is uniquely poised for the role.
Half of the Department of Energy’s $800 million nuclear energy research now goes through the INL (which spends half of its own budget on nuclear research).
The French firm Areva plans to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls by 2012.
And the Idaho lab is high on the radar screen for Congress.
The government just added $33 million to INL’s nuclear facilities budget for 2010. And the lab received half of all of Idaho’s federal stimulus money – the $468 million for nuclear cleanup made Idaho the fifth-highest state in per capita stimulus spending.
As climate change has challenged many long-held environmental tenets, it has placed a renewed call on something most environmentalists have stood against for years: nuclear power, which is relatively carbon-free.
The debate is at the heart of climate-change legislation that has passed the House and is now in the Senate. If Congress pushes nuclear power in the bill, it could more than double the number of reactors built by 2030.