NFS partners to run Idaho nuclear laboratory

By Thomas Wilson

   The University of Chicago has unveiled a science team including an East Tennessee nuclear fuel producer that will bid for the contract to manage and operate the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
   Led by the University of Chicago, the Idaho Laboratory Affiliates team includes: Kellogg Brown and Root Services, Inc. (KBR), Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. (TBE), and Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS) of Erwin.
   "The University of Chicago has been part of the Idaho community for 54 years," explained University of Chicago President Don Randel. "Our view is that the best way to assure the success of the new laboratory as a world-class center for research and development is to begin with the best partnerships. Our goal is to accelerate progress from the first day of operation. By doing so, we'll assure that Idaho establishes its rightful place as a center for breakthrough nuclear technologies in this decade - and for the rest of the century."
   The DOE released a final request for proposals on May 26 inviting companies to submit their best competitive proposals to establish the INL. The laboratory is touted as the next big thing for nuclear energy research, development, demonstration, and education.
   The INL will combine the research and development components of the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory West. The lab will continue to build on its role as the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management's center for assuring readiness of DOE spent fuel shipments to the nation's repository. The new lab will begin operation on Feb. 1, 2005.
   "America's energy future requires that new technologies emerge for the efficient use of nuclear power to produce electricity," said NFS' chief executive officer Dwight Ferguson in a statement released last week. "Our team will assure that Idaho plays a key role in new technologies for defense and commercial nuclear power."
   The University of Chicago developed and operated the world's first nuclear research reactor in 1942. In 1949, it began its association with Idaho nuclear research. Today, the university manages and operates Argonne National Laboratory - West in Idaho and Argonne National Laboratory -- East in Chicago.
   Headquartered in Huntsville, Ala., TBE is a major player in U.S. space and defense-related technology development and implementation. Current projects involve future space launch vehicles, microgravity science, threat reduction of international weapons of mass destruction, cybersecurity software, and space exploration.
   "The demonstration of advanced research in NASA-related projects as well as cybersecurity for homeland defense can be extraordinary opportunities for INL growth," said James Link, president of TBE.
   NFS supplies advanced nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program. NFS' Erwin site is also ground zero for the proposed Blended Low Enriched Uranium Project, a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to convert stockpiles of surplus weapons-grade uranium into a low-enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The project will bring more than 33 tons of weapons-grade uranium into Erwin for down blending.
   The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved three license amendment requests to the company's Special Nuclear Materials license 124. The license amendments involve the construction of three new buildings -- the Uranyl Nitrate Building, the Oxide Conversion Building, and the Effluent Processing Building -- on a site referred to as the "BLEU Complex" at the company's site in Erwin.
   NFS is providing planning for the U.S. Department of Energy's new Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site using the government's new design basis threat requirements.
   "We are extremely proud of the innovative technologies developed by the University of Chicago here in Idaho," explained Tom Rosenbaum, vice-president for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago. "The companies we've asked to be part of the INL team are world-class leaders in their fields."
   The DOE has established that the operator to manage the Laboratory will create a joint laboratory/university center for advanced energy studies in Idaho. The center will contribute to the growth of new technologies, a new generation of nuclear engineers, and to the overall growth of Idaho's economy.
   KBR has a long affiliation with DOE-related programs including engineering, construction, operations and maintenance, and special project support. "Idaho has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for creating a center for scientific research," said David Swindle, KBR vice president for Business Acquisition and National Security programs.
   "The first step in the process is to create an infrastructure that fosters innovation and is cost effective."