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Areva chooses Idaho for new uranium plant

BOISE – French-owned energy services company Areva NC Inc. will build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near the eastern Idaho city of Idaho Falls, not in Richland.

The plant will be built near the Idaho National Laboratory, where scientists have done research into nuclear energy since the 1940s, the company said Tuesday.

A late-session push in the Legislature earlier this year extended a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel and capped property tax valuations at the proposed plant at $400 million.

Areva’s decision prompted U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings to blast the Washington state Legislature for not making similar enticements.

“What made the difference for Idaho was its state leadership working hard to attract these high-paying jobs,” Hastings, R-Pasco, wrote in a press release. “Idaho welcomed them with open arms while Olympia’s response was luke-warm at best.”

Areva plans to build the plant by 2014.

But it still must get approval from local, state and national agencies, including a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate the facility.

The company has said the plant will employ 350 to 400 people.

Areva selected Idaho over sites in Ohio, Texas and New Mexico, as well as Richland, where the company already has a plant that fabricates fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors.

“Now we’ve got to be concerned that the over 600 jobs at Areva’s existing Richland facility won’t someday follow this project out of state,” Hastings wrote.