Nuclear energy is a carbon-free power source. Idaho has no commercial-scale nuclear power generation plants; however, nuclear power has a rich history in Idaho, notably at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), established in 1949. In fact, INL was the site of the first use of nuclear fission to produce a useable quantity of electricity, and in 1955, the Borax III reactor provided electricity to the town of Arco, ID. Although temporary, this was the first time that a nuclear reactor powered an entire US community. INL is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s complex of 17 national laboratories and is the lead laboratory on integrating nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment.
NuScale Power, LLC is slated to begin building a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) power plant at the INL site, which could hold up to 12 modules. Owned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by Energy Northwest, this plant will provide electricity and clean water to areas that typically rely on coal-based utilities. UAMPS is planning on commercial operation of the first NuScale Power Module at INL in 2026. More information about their SMRs and NuScale’s project can be found here.
There are several different types of nuclear power reactors, including light-water reactors, gas-cooled reactors, heavy-water reactors (reactors which use a “heavy” form of water – deuterium oxide) and breeder reactors. The power reactors in the United States utilize light water technology, either pressurized water reactors, or boiling water reactors. NuScale’s SMRs are a type of light-water reactor.
- U.S. Department of Energy map of national laboratories across the country.
- Nuclear Energy Institute map of operating nuclear power plants in the U.S.