Monday May 29th 2017 (Memorial Day)
It was a beautiful sunny day in the mid 70s. The holiday weekend campers started leaving the park early. My neighbors were gone by the time I got up. Other weekend residents left throughout the morning. By noon the park was almost deserted with only about 6 or 7 rigs remaining. Tonight another 8 to 10 RVs have arrived.
I drove east from Arco this afternoon to visit the Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-1) Museum on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). This learning reactor from the 1950s is in the middle of nowhere. The INL is more than 28 miles across on route US 20 and probably twice that from north to south. It is located on open land with grass and sagebrush with a butte here and there. Each of the Lab complexes dedicated to nuclear science and technology is well back from the road and miles away from other Lab complexes. The EBR-1 location is right in the middle of the INL land.
I arrived just in time to join a tour that was starting. The young lady leading the tour had her hands full answering the questions of a handful of kids. She did a good job of informing the adults and answering things like why consoles were painted gray to the kids. The tour lasted about an hour. It provided a good overview of the historical significance of the reactor. EBR-1 demonstrated the first peaceful use of atomic fission on December 20, 1951. The reactor powered a string of light bulbs. The next day it provided the power needs of the building.
After the tour I was able to wander around the exhibits and check out additional areas that were not part of the tour. This included a set experimental nuclear powered jet engines outside on the grounds. They were part of research to develop a nuclear powered bomber. The program was terminated in the early 1960s by President Kennedy. Given the size of the two devices on display, the plane would have been huge.
I liked the tour of EBR-1. The museum provides and interesting historical perspective to the use of nuclear power. There is also an element of education on the dangers associated with today’s nuclear reactors and along with an opinion that it could be much safer if the research at EBR-1 and its successor EBR-II was allowed to continue.