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Reactor Would Energize Local Economy

Report: Reactor would energize local economy

A new Idaho Department of Labor report estimates construction of a small modular nuclear reactor in eastern Idaho would create or sustain nearly 13,000 jobs in the local economy. The preliminary assessment by Regional Economist Chris St Jeor breaks down the $2.8 billion reactor project proposed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site into two phases: construction and operations. It says building the NuScale Power-designed plant would create up to 1,000 construction jobs. An additional 11,808 jobs in the Idaho Falls metro area would be created or sustained in the construction phase through “indirect and induced economic activity,” the report said. The combined average wage of those jobs would be about $45,000. During the operational phase — which isn’t expected until 2024 at the earliest — the reactor would support 360 jobs. That would create or sustain another 1,147 local jobs, the report said, with average annual earnings of $65,000. “As the region is already known for its technical expertise in energy research, the development of the SMR would be a natural addition to the region’s high-tech portfolio and be mutually beneficial for the industry’s current employers,” St Jeor wrote in the report. A preferred site for the 600-megawatt reactor was announced earlier this week by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a consortium of public utilities that includes Idaho Falls Power. Officials say nothing is yet a done deal on the project, however, as the location still needs final approval. The first-of-its kind reactor design also will need to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a process that will take years. “We still have a long ways to go, but it’s nice to understand what the economic boost could be from the project,” Idaho Falls Power General Manager Jackie Flowers said Friday.
Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper commissioned the economic analysis this spring after UAMPS said it hoped to build the reactor in eastern Idaho. Officials said they anticipate more in-depth studies will be conducted in the coming years, including ones factoring in the economic impact if many of the reactor’s components also were built in eastern Idaho. The modular nature of the reactor means many pieces of the plant are assembled elsewhere and shipped to the construction site. The project’s cost would be shared by many of UAMPS’ 45 member utilities around the West. The organization sees the reactor as a way to replace anticipated loss of power generation from coal plants closing in the coming years. Flowers, who leads the UAMPS Board of Directors, said specifics of the plant’s financing will be discussed in the next few months. “It’s a big project, and there’s a lot of work still to do,” she said

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