Pushing limits and forcing change. Nuclear energy development roared onto the scene in the mid-1940s. So, while some were out “cutting a rug,” engineers were splitting atoms to find new ways to generate clean and efficient energy.
The production of atomic energy has come a long way since then, and is now one of the most reliable energy sources in America.
But how did it all start?
Let’s take a look back at the world’s first nuclear power plant located in Idaho’s vast desert landscape.
Here are 9 notable facts about Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I), the power plant that pioneered nuclear development:
1. EBR-I was a liquid metal-cooled fast reactor designed to demonstrate that it could create more fuel than it consumed. Not only do liquid metal coolants like sodium – or the sodium-potassium alloy used in EBR-I – transfer heat better than the light-water reactors in the current fleet, but they also have a more sustainable fuel cycle over a longer period of time.
2. On December 20, 1951, EBR-I became the first power plant to produce usable electricity through atomic fission. It powered four 200-watt lightbulbs and eventually generated enough electricity to light the entire facility.
3. While EBR-I is known as the first to produce usable electricity, other reactors built on its success. In 1954, Russia’s Obninsk APS-1 provided 5 milliwatts of electricity to the power grid. Back in Idaho, Borax-III, a boiling water reactor plant, generated enough electricity to power the small nearby town of Arco in 1955.
4. During a coolant flow test, EBR-I suffered an unexpected partial core meltdown. This event allowed scientists to better understand the thermal capacity of the materials used for testing. The experimentation heavily contributed to the advancement of nuclear technology.
5. EBR-I is in the running to become a LEGO minifigure. The campaign only needs 10,000 votes to reach its goal. The two-level model will provide an up-close look at the ins and outs of this national historic landmark.
You can show your support for the product idea.
6. EBR-I is the only test reactor featured in a music video. It was the backdrop for the song, “Clean Power Forever,” featuring Eric Meyer and filmed during one the Energy Department’s Millennial Nuclear Caucuses.
7. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared EBR-I a National Historic Landmark.
8. Two aircraft nuclear propulsion prototypes rest in the parking lot of the EBR-I facility. The plan was to develop a jet engine powered by the heat produced through nuclear fission to remain in flight for extended periods of time.
9. It’s the first nuclear power plant museum. The Experimental Breeder Reactor-I Atomic Museum offers free guided tours. It’s an experience like no other. It’s open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Check out upcoming Millennial Nuclear Caucus events.