This past week I spent a couple of days touring the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), formerly known as the INEL, with a group of fellow business development professionals. It was an interesting tour of the facilities, research labs and site. The focus was primarily on acquainting us with the various projects and technologies currently under development at INL that are and could become available for commercial licensing and development.
I came away with a much greater understanding of the array and magnitude of work they do there – not only nuclear research, but everything from biotechnology to bioenergy to homeland security. In addition, I happened upon a couple of areas of interest that might benefit the City of Sun Valley in some of its work in transportation and energy conservation which I will share with my colleagues here.
Obviously there are serious existing environmental concerns at the INL. John Grossenbacher, Director of the INL, discussed these with us. They seem to be taking these “sins of the past” as he calls them seriously and commit a significant portion of their annual budget to the cleanup effort. There was also a lengthy discussion about future technology development at INL which could have impacts on our environment and the future of nuclear power. The October, 2006 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine had an article which covered the subject. Here is a link to the October, 2006 Popular Mechanics article.
A stop at the Reactor Technology Complex was quite an occasion. At that complex we were able to look directly into an actual operating nuclear reactor called the Advanced Test Reactor described in the article mentioned above. That was an experience I will never forget!
Photo: Popular Mechanics -October, 2006
If you are driving the highway between Arco and Idaho Falls, take the time to stop and visit the EBR-1 site that is open to the general public. In 1951 it became the first power plant to produce electricity using atomic energy. It has been nicely restored as a historical site and is well worth the stop, although it is not quite like looking into an operating reactor. The kids will enjoy it too.