Idaho experiment that showed nuclear power was more than a weapon turns 70 years old


Pioneering nuclear physicists Harold Lichtenberger, left, and Walter Zinn show off lightbulbs being illuminated with nuclear power.

The nation’s nuclear power industry was born here in the Mountain West, and Monday marks the 70th anniversary of a facility producing enough power to light up four light bulbs — and showing that nuclear power could be used for more than just weapons.

Now, as the nation explores new kinds of nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions, Mountain West News Bureau reporter Madelyn Beck visited EBR-1 (or Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1) in Idaho, about 160 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

She walked from room to room with Idaho National Labs’ Ryan Weeks, who spoke about the plant’s history.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

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