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Rare Earth Elements Could Spark Profits For Pocatello

It’s just another day in the life for Terry Andersen, going to offices, meeting people and trying to find funding for a working nuclear reactor that would create energy for southeastern Idaho.

Terry’s meeting with the college of technology at ISU isn’t that much of a long shot. The nuclear reactor he wants to build would create electricity fueled by Thorium deposits found near Salmon. A company out of Utah, U.S. Rare Earths Inc., wants to mine those elements. And they can be used for a lot of things.

“The aircraft industry, the military, I think the list is endless,” said ISU nuclear engineering professor Jay Kunze.

They can also be used in computers, cell phones and batteries. Terry is hoping southeastern Idaho can capitalize on them. If the university could even produce a “small” reactor, “that would be enough to power ISU,” Terry said.

Thorium reactors or not, the issue of whether mining rare earths will create jobs isn’t even a question, according to the Department of Labor’s regional economist Dan Cravens.

“This could be huge for Idaho. We could see the location of companies in the hi-tech industries related to these elements locating here,” Cravens said.

Andersen says the rare earths in Salmon are potentially worth over $2 trillion. Both Boehing and the Japanese government are interested in the deposit.

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