Experimental Breeder Reactor I, Idaho
There is a small museum and visitor center devoted to the world's first working nuclear power plant on a desolate Idaho plain 18 miles from the nearest town (Arco). Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) is about 40 miles from Craters of the Moon National Monument and about 50 miles from Mackay. Its remote location keeps visitor traffic to a minium. The reactor and museum are on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory and not far from large, currently used research facilities. The museum is free and open from 9 to 5, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. It is a National Historic Landmark.
EBR-1 was started on December 20, 1951, initially producing enough electricity to illuminate four 200 watt light bulbs, making it the first nuclear reactor to produce electricity. EBR-1 suffered a partial melt-down in 1955. EBR-1 is housed inside the museum and not pictured here. The reactor pictured above is a experimental nuclear powered jet engine. Several prototype reactors were built from 1951-61 as a part of a program to develop a nuclear powered aircraft. No working aircraft was ever produced by this project. The HTRE-1 and HTRE-3 reactors from the aircraft project are outside in the open air, in front of the EBR-1 visitor center. These are the only nuclear powered jet engines in the world.
The BORAX 1-5 nuclear reactors were built in the 1950s and early 60s at the Idaho National Laboratory after EBR-1. These reactors utilized steam driven turbines to produce electricity. BORAX II powered the nearby town of Arco briefly in 1955. Signs in Arco proclaim that it was the first town powered by nuclear energy.
The EBR-1 museum is small but interesting. Visitors can walk around the reactor control room and see many artifacts from the early nuclear age. I was most impressed with the nuclear powered jet engines however which I think are accessible year round.
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