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Idaho National Laboratory
The nuclear reactor that was the first in the world to turn on a light.

Here are 11 interesting tidbits about the Idaho National Laboratory that leave it well placed in the history books for its research accomplishments.

1. The world's first usable electricity from atomic energy happened at the Idaho National Laboratory in 1951. Tours of the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 are from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It is a National Historic Landmark.

2. Nuclear fission in 1955 demonstrated it could power an airplane. But the laboratory abandoned the experiment at the direction of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Idaho National Laboratory
The Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment demonstrated in 1955 that nuclear fission could power an airplane engine. But other obstacles to nuclear-powered aircraft led to cancelation of the program in 1961. In 1988, the two HTRE reactors were hauled to a visitor center at the site of EBR-I, where they remain today.

3. The Advanced Test Reactor can in just weeks or months cause years to decades of neutron damage to help determine the safety of materials used in nuclear power plants.

4. Research in biomass resulted in corn stover — which are the stalks, leaves and cobs that remain in the field after harvest — powering up the 585-megawatt Boardman Coal Plant in a test burn in March.

5. Over its life, the laboratory has been home to 52 reactors, three of which produced electricity.

6. The site assembled and tested the power source on the Mars Curiosity rover and conducts design work on other space exploration systems involving nuclear energy.

7. The Computer Assisted Virtual Environment, or CAVE, allows researchers to don goggles and enter a 3D computer-assisted environment to immerse themselves in their own data — from the Earth's geothermal layers to the interior of a nuclear reactor.

8. The laboratory has its own team of archaeologists who work on a variety of projects, including uncovering the remains of a pioneer who died along the Oregon Trail on what is now the laboratory's land and recovering the personal effects of men who perished in a World War II bomber crash during a training run.

9. Since 1984, the Idaho National Laboratory has been the lead manufacturer of armor packages for the U.S. Army’s Abrams main battle tank.

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10. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the laboratory operate an above-ground water delivery system, which in 2017 was deliberately contaminated with a microbe related to anthrax. The test was designed to determine what methods would clean the piping most effectively. The piping is ideal because it is similar to what exists across most cities today.

11. The prototype for the reactor used in the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, was tested at Idaho National Laboratory. A total of four nuclear navy prototypes were built at the site and were used to train thousands of U.S. Navy members.