A nuclear research laboratory in Idaho is expected to begin operations again after it has been inactive for 20 years, The Associated Press reported. The Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) at Idaho National Laboratory was built in 1959 and has been inactive since 1994. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is investing some $75 million to restart the facility by 2018.
The renewed interest in TREAT was sparked by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, which prompted the shutdown of Japan's nuclear plants. The U.S. aims to use the nuclear research laboratory to determine how to lower the risk of nuclear fuel during accidents.
According to the DOE, transient testing involves placing fuel or material into the core of a nuclear reactor and subjecting it to short bursts of intense, high-power radiation. The fuel or material is then analyzed to determine the effects of the radiation and used to guide the development and improvement of advanced nuclear fuel designs.
John Bumgardner, transient testing director for Idaho National Laboratory, said this particular research facility was most likely selected because operators had refurbished TREAT just six years before it was shuttered.
"The people who worked at this reactor in the past did a brilliant job," Bumgardner said. "It has a very low use of uranium, and as a result, the reactor can run for a long time."
TREAT is located near operating facilities designed to receive, handle and process irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies, construct test experiment assemblies with either fresh or irradiated fuels, receive tested transient experiments containing failed fuel and perform post irradiation examinations on failed fuels.