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Long-Mothballed U.S. Nuclear Test Reactor To Be Restarted, for Fission R&D

Nov. 28, 2017 (EIRNS)—Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT), which has been in standby status/shutdown since 1994, has been restarted by the Department of Energy. The facility, which can produce short bursts of energy more than five times that of commercial reactors, is designed to allow scientists to test and evaluate the performance of different nuclear fuels.

"The Department of Energy’s decision to restore transient testing capability at INL is part of our efforts to revitalize the nation’s nuclear capacity,"

said Ed McGinnis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

"By investing in innovative fuel cycle infrastructure, we can advance nuclear as a key source of clean, resilient power, and maintain U.S. leadership in developing advanced nuclear technologies."

The test reactor, which was built in 1959, at the dawn of the civilian nuclear industry, will resume testing fuels next year.

This is one of a number of policy initiatives that the Trump Administration is promoting to preserve and advance the dying U.S. nuclear industry. Others have included the extension of tax credits and loan guarantees for new nuclear plants under construction, and instructions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to change the "market-based" rules of the sale of power, which now support renewables, and exclude nuclear from programs promoting the use of "clean" power sources.

While these initiatives may bring some temporary relief to the utilities that are trying to build nuclear power plants, a complete overhaul of energy policy, with energy flux density as the criterion for federal support, is what is needed, and will be possible under a new economic policy framework, as it was when the "free market" was replaced by the regulation of the electric utility industry under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration.