Most People Have No Idea You Can Tour This Nuclear Power Plant In Idaho
Idaho has a lot going for it – the beautiful landscapes, abundant wildlife, and endless opportunities for recreation just to name few. But did you know that Idaho also paved the way for the rest of the country in the using nuclear power for commercial use? It might sound bizarre, but it’s true! Arco, Idaho is known for being the first city ever to be powered solely by nuclear power. The area has had more nuclear reactors built on their land than any place in the entire world (over 50!). One of these nuclear power plants is called the Experimental Breeder Reactor I and has been turned into a museum open to the general public to tour. Check it out!
Located in the middle of the desert about 18 miles southeast of Arco is the first breeder reactor in the world, the EBR-I. Driving through Arco's vast barren plains, it's easy to see why this was the perfect spot for nuclear experimentation. This is probably what most people think of when they think of Idaho....empty desert going on for as long as the eye can see.
This museum isn't just for science and tech savvy people. The free tour is extremely informative and there's something captivating about walking through a place that is considered to be the first electricity-generating nuclear power plant.
Stepping through the front doors is like stepping back in time. It's amazing to see the technology that was once considered new and unknown, and to compare that to where technology has taken us today. The EBR-I was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and granted landmark status by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966.
EBR-I was the first reactor to produce electricity to be used in-house, but it was the nearby power plant called BORAX-III that was used to externally power the city of Arco in 1955.
There's something humbling about seeing this machinery up close and personal. The museum offers both self-guided and guided tours. The guided tour is especially recommended because of the valuable information the tour guides can give you. Both entrance to the museum and the tour are free of cost.
One of the coolest things you'll witness is "the hot cell," which has been sealed from the outside world since 1974 and is where they made plutonium-239. It sounds pretty scary, but don't worry - about four feet of glass is separating you from it.
In the original control room you are even allowed to take a turn on the various buttons and switches. This is popular with the kids. There is plenty of signage around the museum explaining what the various machines were used for and how nuclear energy is created, for those who are unfamiliar.
There is a ton of history packed into this small building. Considering its location, this truly is a hidden gem of Idaho. You won't be sorry you the made the trip out to visit this highly informational and incredibly historic place. You won't be able to experience anything like this outside of Idaho.
For more information about the museum and how to get there, click
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