July 13 2016 0comment

Nuclear Profile: The Idaho National Laboratory

Spread out across several facilities in the vast desert between Idaho Falls and Arco, Nevada is the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The INL is a site operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and while most of the people who work there are contractors to the DOE, there are federal employees who work at the INL. There is also a site operated by the Navy.

The INL is unique among national labs spread across the country, and has an interesting history. In 1955, a nuclear reactor operated then by the Argonne National Laboratory, provided power to the nearby small town of Arco—making it the first town in the world to by lit entirely by nuclear-generated electricity.

A more solemn part of the INL’s history occurred in 1961 when there was a core meltdown in an experimental reactor. Three personnel were killed in what remains the only fatal nuclear reactor incident in U.S. history.

Today, the core of the work performed at the INL is energy research. However, there remains one reactor called the Advanced Test Reactor. There is also an ongoing cleanup project where buried radioactive and hazardous material including spent fuel is being retrieved from underneath the desert floor.

The main contractor at the INL is Battelle Energy Alliance, while there are dozens of other contractors and sub-contractors. Because the INL is spread across several facilities in Southeast Idaho, there are several public highways that pass through the INL borders. However, in order to access any of the secure facilities themselves, a security clearance is required.

The INl collaborates with several businesses and educational institutions. One of the most notable collaborations is between the INL and three public research universities located in Idaho: Idaho State University, Boise State University, and the University of Idaho. They work with the INL on a DOE-administered project in Idaho Falls called the Center for advanced Energy Studies (CAES).

The INL also has an outreach program that includes scholarships and grants, internships, and small business partnerships.

Up next: the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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