Guest Opinions

INL-Boise partnerships bode well for innovation

Mark Peters
Mark Peters

It’s been little more than a year since I became director of Idaho National Laboratory. What an exciting and enlightening 12 months it has been. My family moved out from Chicago. We’re building a house in Idaho Falls. We feel very much at home and for that I am grateful, not just to my friends and neighbors in Southeast Idaho, but also the many wonderful people I have met across the state.

Looking back on my short time at INL, I am so proud of all that we accomplished:

▪  President Obama tasked us with leading his Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) Initiative, to help sustain the existing fleet of nuclear reactors and develop the next.

▪  We continued to support NuScale Power as it works to develop the world’s first operational small modular reactor.

▪  INL was selected to lead four projects as part of a $220 million grid modernization effort.

▪  We continued to establish itself as a global leader on critical infrastructure protection from natural and manmade threats.

▪  We partnered with government agencies and industry to determine national and international standards for plug-in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

INL is a large enterprise with lofty goals fitting for a national laboratory. And while I’m justifiably proud of all that was accomplished, I look forward to the laboratory doing even more to help resolve the nation’s big energy and security challenges.

And I anticipate greater collaboration with the Treasure Valley.

INL is increasing its presence in Boise, including a partnership with Trailhead, a gathering place for entrepreneurs located in your backyard.

Early next year, we will host a forum in Boise about doing business with the laboratory to bring entrepreneurs and the nation’s top clean energy researchers together.

We continue to build valuable partnerships with our higher education institutions, including Boise State University, and work with state policymakers to develop infrastructure necessary to doing this important work.

Like everyone, the lab has challenges to overcome. Nuclear energy provides 63 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity and remains our most effective tool in ensuring energy security and combating climate change. Those who understand nuclear energy’s many advantages must get better at talking about them.

The foundation for this conversation is scientific accomplishment. That’s our bread and butter. The nation’s lead nuclear research laboratory, however, must have certain tools to do its job. INL has been unable to import two 100-pound shipments of used nuclear fuel from two commercial nuclear reactors to complete its important mission.

Continuing to block these small shipments of research quantities of used nuclear fuel does not strengthen the Idaho Settlement Agreement. It only hurts a national laboratory many state and federal leaders have worked to build.

In the long run, we must find a path forward that enforces the agreement and continues the remarkable cleanup progress made without constantly tying the laboratory’s hands.

We can do this. We can protect our environment and bolster our economy while enabling the research necessary to fulfill Idaho National Laboratory’s mission for the nation.

Mark Peters is director of Idaho National Laboratory.