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INL sees a bright future for nuclear, and wants CSI students to be a part of it

Posted at 5:10 PM, Oct 26, 2023

Nuclear energy is the hot topic at the College of Southern Idaho this week, as leaders from the Idaho National Laboratory and their partner organizations were in Twin Falls to engage with students and the public about careers in nuclear energy.

Catlin Gaskill is at CSI pursuing agricultural studies, and attended the town hall to ask if there was an intersection between ag production and nuclear energy.

“If we can reduce waste, if we can recycle things and reuse things, then that is a good outcome for everyone,” Gaskill told Idaho News 6. “Not only from the energy standpoint, but for agricultural production, especially on the large-scale side.”

Gaskill and her friends from the engineering department attended Energy Days, an event put on by the college and Idaho National Laboratories to connect students with the increasingly bright future of nuclear energy.

During a question and answer session, students asked a range of questions, from national security and competition with China, to how the processing of nuclear waste has transformed in the last decade.

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Student Miles McNeil asked INL Director John Wagner about a national response to other countries, more and more using thorium reactors. McNeil said he wished he’d been able to have a more in-depth conversation, but there wasn’t time.

“He said that everyone’s involved in this, it is possibly going to be the future, it is an energy race,” McNeil told Idaho News 6. “Is the United States still the first when it comes to nuclear energy? Not anymore.”

A leader in nuclear energy development and research, Idaho National Labs is poised to bring their first new reactor in 50 years online, and with more developments in nuclear technology on the way, they are looking for Idaho schools to meet their labor needs.

Wagner said part of the visit to CSI was to churn up more interest across the state for people interested in energy careers.

“It’s fitting that we’re here at the college, as workforce is probably our largest challenge,” Wagner told Idaho News 6. “To support the growth in our energy and national security missions, we need people.”

As one of three federally managed laboratories in the country that focuses on energy, INL is at the forefront of developing new energy technology.

They’ve grown to a staff of 6,000, and with more innovations coming in the few years ahead, the need for more people will continue.

“We’ve got facilities, technicians, radiation control, welders, crafts, security force, so we hire across a really broad spectrum,” Wagner said. “We hire everything from high school graduates to community college graduates, to PhD scientists. And we need them all.”