The first contract was awarded for the construction of a spent fuel handling facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site west of Idaho Falls.
Naval Reactors Facility spokesman Joshua Heider declined to say which contractor was awarded the work, though he said the company is local.
In the next several weeks, the contractor will remove shrubbery and other debris from the construction site so support infrastructure, including roads, parking lots and fencing, can be built.
The support work contract, which also will include utility line construction, will be awarded in November.
“The site work will be preparing the land for that,” Header said. “Then the support work is expected to begin in the next couple of months.”
The new $1.65 billion handling facility is slated to open in 2024, and is expected to create about 350 construction jobs in the meantime. The building will measure 714 feet by 394 feet, and will contain a 3.9 million-gallon pool to contain spent fuel.
All spent fuel from the U.S. Navy’s nuclear fleet is brought to the desert site for testing, packaging, temporary storage and eventual disposal.
The Naval Reactors Facility’s current decades-old fuel handling site, the Expended Core Facility, can’t support the unloading of spent aircraft carrier fuel without prior disassembly of the carrier fuel canisters that house it. The new facility will be able to accommodate long, 520,000-pound carrier fuel canisters transported to eastern Idaho by rail.
Site excavation is expected to begin during the summer.
“That’s when they will dig the big hole to expose bedrock,” Heider said.
The new facility is expected to serve the Navy’s spent fuel needs until 2060. Employees will transition to the new facility after it’s built, and the Expended Core Facility will eventually be decommissioned.