Earlier this year, The United States Department of Energy announced plans to build a Versatile Test Reactor, or VTR. As the government searched for a building site for this reactor, the Mayor of Rexburg, Idaho, Jerry Merrill, wrote the Department of Energy to recommend the Idaho National Laboratory as a possible location.
“I just felt like it was important for me to voice my opinion… We feel like the INL is the leading place for this kind of (nuclear) test work,” Merrill said. “I think a lot of the energy needs of the future are going to depend on good, clean nuclear energy.”
Merrill also expanded upon the economic incentives for such a site to be built in Idaho Falls.
“I think the estimate on it will be $3.6 billion just to build it, so you’re going to have a lot of construction jobs right off the bat,” Merrill said. “Then, of course, you will have a lot of scientists and engineers… those are going to be a lot of high paying jobs and a lot of good opportunities for people in the future.”
According to the Office of Nuclear Energy, this new facility should be able to perform “irradiation testing at much higher neutron energy fluxes than what is currently available today,”
This development is part of a larger vision to increase the nuclear energy potential of the United States.
In a February announcement, Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy, explained, “The Versatile Test Reactor is a key step to implementing President Trump’s direction to revitalize and expand the U.S. nuclear industry … This cutting edge Advanced Reactor will give American companies the ability they currently lack to conduct advanced technology and fuels tests without having to go to our competitors in Russia and China.”
Despite the Trump administration’s denial of the man-made threat of climate change, advancing nuclear energy is often a popular notion among environmentalists.
Merrill explained his concern for the future of the environment.
“I think making sure that we have energy that is affordable and clean is very important to our future and our children and grandchildren’s future,” Merrill said. “We want to have a good, clean environment to live in … I have my reservations about whether we are in a global warming energy crisis. I think, you know, we always want to be cautious and do what we can to keep the environment clean and safe for everybody. But I think we need to look at all of the science and make sure we are making good decisions instead of looking at it from a political standpoint.”
While the Department of Energy is still weighing its options, the completion of the Versatile Test Reactor is estimated to occur in five to seven years.