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Idaho National Laboratory vaccine requirement forces employees to leave

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - While the three federal vaccine mandates are temporally on hold, the Idaho National Lab has its own vaccine requirement that went into effect on Nov. 19.

INL Director John Wagner said previously its in accordance with the federal executive order.

He released this statement when it was announced that reads, "This decision reflects our core value of safety. It reflects our desire to protect vulnerable populations. As a leader in the state of Idaho and a national laboratory that changes the world through great science, it reflects our willingness to use the best scientific data  available to protect our staff and achieve our missions."

While INL couldn't give an exact number of how many employees no longer work there, they called it "a small percentage."

One of those former employees is Andy Beasley, who worked there for 24 years, and has another eight years of working in the nuclear field while in the Navy.

"I was the lead facility engineer for the sample prep lab, that's a new construction hostel project that was going to be used for nuclear materials research," Beasley said. "I took that position about a year ago. Prior to that, I was an experiment engineer and ran experiment safety analysis for the Transient Reactor. And I've also served in that function at ATR and also in operations at ATR."

Beasley applied for a religious exemption but was denied.

"I've been out there for 24 years and never had any kind of concerns like this with management or with work conditions," Beasley said. "But to have this imposed on us and then, you know, to tell a company that I have a religious objection to this and it goes against my basic religious principles and have them say, well we're going to deny that accommodation and go get the shot or get fired."

Beasley also says the site will feel the loss of dozens of workers.

"The unfortunate part of that is a lot of those workers can't be replaced or can be easily replaced," Beasley said. "You're talking about people who had decades of experience in nuclear fuel or doing analysis, doing neutronics, those kinds of things supporting the reactors. And it's what the site does with the test reactors and with the nuclear research. It's a very specialized, very small group of people that do what we do out there. And you don't just go out and hire somebody to replace you."

INL was reached out to for a response to concerns from both the community and previous employees but didn't get back in time for this story.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho Falls
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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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