THREE: The Power of the Atom – Idaho’s Experimental Breeder Reactor I

Written by Guest Blogger: Brett Leigh Dicks

Sitting in the middle of Idaho’s high desert is large amorphous brick building. While there is no questioning the building’s lofty presence as it rises out of the flat surrounds of the central Idaho landscape, the structure’s formidable physical presence pales into insignificance compared to its historical significance.

On December 20 1951 the National Reactor Testing Station’s Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I) became world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plant.  On that day atomic energy was successfully harvested for the first time, producing enough electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs. The following day, EBR-1 produced enough power to light the entire building.

Whereas coal and oil fired power plants burned their fuel to heat water and generate steam to drive the electricity-generating turbines, EBR-I used the fission of uranium atoms to release energy. That heat was transferred from the reactor core through two stages of heated liquid metals, which heated water to generate steam to drive a turbine.

While uranium -235 was first used to generate heat, EBR-I subsequently became the world’s first breeder reactor to use plutonium fuel in the generation of electricity. EBR-I was deactivated in 1964 when it was replaced with a new reactor, Experimental Breeder Reactor II and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson dedicated the facility as a National Historic Landmark.

Experimental Breeder Reactor-I is operated by the Idaho National Laboratory. For more information visit www.inl.gov/experimental-breeder-reactor-i/

 

Opposing Forces Exhibition Launch and Artist Talk | Thursday August 2, 7-9pm

Come meet the artist, Brett Leigh Dicks, and learn about his collection of photographs on display in the Diefenbunker’s Vault. You’ll also be the first to hear about his intriguing Cold War journey with his photographs from Santa Barbara, California to the Diefenbunker in Ottawa. Reserve your free tickets on Eventbrite.

Brett’s exhibition “Opposing Forces: Photographs of Abandoned Nuclear Missile Bases” will be on display at the Diefenbunker from August 2 – September 9, 2018.

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