Richard C. Williams
Dr. Steven Peterson
3 November 2014
Economic Impact of INL
This paper considers two potential black swan events that would have a major impact on the INL, the surrounding areas, and the state of Idaho. Both events are extremely unlikely, but provide a backdrop for exploring the economic, fiscal, and social impact of the INL. The first event is the adoption of an extremely conservative budget as has been proposed in the past by
Paul Ryan. With this type of budget, it is assumed the site would lose much of its funding and be limited to only minimum staffing requirements to ensure security and safety. The second event is the repeal of the site treatment plan and the U.S. Department of Energy designating the INL as the Spent Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage for the nation’s nuclear fuel. This would have the opposite impact and would significantly increase the economic activity for the site; both in the short and long term.
The Idaho National Laboratory
The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) consists of approximately 890 square miles of high-desert land located in southeast Idaho as shown in Figure 1. The area was first used by the
US Navy for testing artillery from the local gun plant located in Pocatello, Idaho. Established in
1949 as the National Reactor Testing Station, the INL has since constructed and operated over 50 nuclear reactors. The Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-1) was the first reactor in the world to produce usable amounts of electricity. In 1953, the Navy developed its prototype power plant for the nation’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, at the INL. This reactor and others were used by the Navy for training the sailors of the nuclear navy until 1994. Every nuclear reactor design in the United States has been influenced by the knowledge and experience gained from the operation of reactors that have been developed at the INL.
The INL is currently managed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and is the designated national nuclear laboratory for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The main mission of the laboratory is to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of making major contributions in meeting the nation’s energy supply, environmental, and energy security needs. The site also supports the mission of the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) in cleaning up legacy nuclear waste at the INL. In addition, as a multi-program laboratory, it supports other federal agencies including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),
Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), and the Department of the Interior. The DOE hires prime contractors to operate the facilities through a proposal and bid process with contract periods ranging from 5 years to 7 years. There are a number of prime contractors operating at the site:
Battelle Energy – Responsible for the overall operation & management of the INL site including all of the research and development activities, operating nuclear reactors, transportation services, site utilities, and emergency response teams.
Idaho Treatment Group – Manages the automated waste disposal activities at the
Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant located within the Radioactive Waste Management
Bechtel – Operates and manages the Naval Reactor Facility (NRF) where spent fuel from
U.S. Naval reactors is stored.
CH2M-Hill Washington Group (CWI) – Responsible for the cleanup of legacy wastes generated from World-War II era conventional weapons testing, government owned research and defense reactors, spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, and nuclear energy.
The economic, fiscal, and social impacts of the INL to the local economy and state are significant (Black, Holley, & Church, 2010). With over 8,000 direct employees, the INL is the second largest employer in the state and is indirectly responsible for an additional 16,000 jobs in