National Nuclear Security Administration

New Naval Reactors facility to increase efficiency and effectiveness

August 24, 2017

You are here

From left, Department of Energy Chief of Staff Brian V. McCormack, Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Rep. Michael K. Simpson, and Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Director Adm. Frank Caldwell wield shovels at the Naval Spent Fuel Handling Facility groundbreaking ceremony.

An artist’s rendering of the new Naval Spent Fuel Handling Facility.NNSA’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP) powers the most formidable fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers on the planet. More than 45 percent of the Navy’s major combatants are nuclear-powered. NNPP recently broke ground on a new support facility to help carry out this vital but demanding mission.

The current Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been safely receiving and inspecting all of the U.S. Navy’s spent nuclear fuel since 1957. NRF supports examination work to validate and improve fuel performance in an environmentally responsible manner. To date, 869 spent fuel containers have been safely shipped to NRF and have cumulatively traveled over 1.6 million miles – a distance greater than 60 trips around the Earth.

The new Naval Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project (SFHP) will increase efficiency and effectiveness while reducing long-term costs and risks. This new 213,085 square foot support facility will extend the NNPP legacy of safe spent fuel handling far into the future.

Adm. Caldwell speaking at the Naval Spent Fuel Handling Facility groundbreaking ceremony.By providing a more reliable and efficient production line, SFHP will enhance the NNPP's ability to meet the Settlement Agreement, as amended in 2008, between the State of Idaho, the DOE, and the Department of the Navy concerning the management of naval nuclear spent fuel.

Consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act Record of Decision, the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project will incorporate the capabilities that currently exist in NRF’s Expended Core Facility and its support facilities, but it will also support an additional capability – the handling of full-length aircraft carrier spent nuclear fuel received in M-290 shipping containers.

The estimated cost of the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project is approximately $1.65 billion. During construction, there is projected to be an increase of approximately 350 on-site construction jobs. Site preparation is underway and facility construction is expected to begin in 2019. Operations are expected to commence in 2024.

“The Naval Spent Fuel Handling Facility will pay huge dividends for many decades to come,” said Adm. Frank Caldwell, the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, during the recent groundbreaking event.