A ceremonial groundbreaking opening the way for site preparation of a $1.65 billion facility to handle spent fuel from the nation's fleet of nuclear-powered warships has taken place in southeastern Idaho.

The Post Register reports that several hundred people gathered Thursday at the Naval Reactors Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's site that covers about 890-square-miles of high-desert sagebrush steppe.

Adm. James Caldwell directs the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

He spoke during the event and says the new facility will allow the Navy to continue its mission by enabling carriers and submarines to operate confidently thousands of miles from the continental United States.

The new facility is scheduled to open in 2024.