Idaho National Lab Director Talks Nuclear Energy, Economic Impact And NASA

Feb 10, 2020

Before Mark Peters joined the Idaho National Laboratory as Director in 2015, he worked at several other national labs across the U.S. managing projects dealing with nuclear energy and national security.

Now, Peters oversees projects at INL in Eastern Idaho about space programs and homeland security, and is frequently brought in to advise the federal government on energy policy.


Peters visited Boise State Public Radio's studios during a recent visit to the statehouse. He said INL is a significant economic driver in the state.

"Everything's currently safely stored." - Mark Peters, INL Director

“In terms of total input into the [state] economy, it’s upwards of $2 billion,” Peters said. As a lab, they spend $1.5 billion and employ 5,000 people.

When it comes to the storage and removal of nuclear waste on the site, Peters says there is “no impact” to the Eastern Snake River Aquifer below the facility. The reservoir is the sole source water supply for 200,000 people in Idaho. He’s happy with two recent supplemental agreements the state made to a 1995 agreement with the Department of Energy.

“Everything’s currently safely stored. But really the central tenants of the [1995] settlement agreement were to protect the aquifer. So therefore, let’s meet these milestones, clean up the legacy and ultimately get this material out of the state.”

This Nov. 29, 2018, file photo shows the Transient Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, in eastern Idaho.
Credit Keith Ridler / AP Images

He said one other big point of pride for folks at INL is their work with NASA. They recently were part of a mission that flew by Pluto, and now are focused on the red planet.

“The one we’re working on for Mars 2020 is a rover that would be deployed on Mars,” Peters said.

INL builds the nuclear-powered batteries for the rover, and will assemble them. He said he hopes to be there at the Kennedy Space Center this summer when it’s scheduled to launch.

Dislaimer: INL is a sponsor of Idaho Matters. 


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