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New report: Nuclear reactor would bring jobs to Idaho Falls

FILE - In this May 11, 2015, file photo, nuclear waste is stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. A federal judge on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to make available to the court documents sought by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus involving nuclear waste shipments to eastern Idaho. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)

Building a small nuclear reactor in eastern Idaho would create or sustain nearly 13,000 local jobs, according to a new report.

The preliminary assessment by Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Christ St Jeor considers the impact of a $2.8 billion small modular nuclear reactor proposed for the U.S. Department of Energy's desert site near Idaho Falls.

The plant would be designed by NuScale Power of Oregon, The Post Register reported. It would create up to 1,000 construction jobs and create or sustain an additional 11,808 jobs in the Idaho Falls area through indirect economic activity, the report said.

The reactor isn't expected to be operational until 2024 at the earliest. The report said it would support about 360 jobs at that point and create or sustain another 1,147 local positions.

The region is already known for its expertise in energy research, so the reactor "would be a natural addition to the region's high-tech portfolio and be mutually beneficial for the industry's current employers," St Jeor wrote in the report.

Officials say they're still waiting on final approval for the site of the 600-megawatt reactor. The reactor's new design will also need Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval, a process that could take years.

"We still have a long ways to go, but it's nice to understand what the economic boost could be from the project," said Jackie Flowers, general manager of Idaho Falls Power.

Flowers also leads the board of directors of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a public utilities consortium that includes Idaho Falls Power. She said UAMP members would share the cost of the project, which they view as a way to replace the loss from coal plants closing in coming years.

The consortium will discuss the specifics of financing the project during the next few months, Flowers said.

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Information from: Post Register

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