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Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Experimental Breeder Reactor Number 1 in Idaho, the first power reactor. The reactor is in the building at center, the two structures lower left are reactors from the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Project
Experimental Breeder Reactor I is located in Idaho
Nearest city: Arco, Idaho
Coordinates: 43°30′41.12″N 113°0′20.29″W / 43.5114222°N 113.0056361°W / 43.5114222; -113.0056361Coordinates: 43°30′41.12″N 113°0′20.29″W / 43.5114222°N 113.0056361°W / 43.5114222; -113.0056361
Built/Founded: 1950
Architect: Atomic Energy Commission
Architectural style(s): No Style Listed
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: December 21, 1965[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000307

Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. At 1:50 pm on December 20, 1951 it became the world's first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs.[3][4] It subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964.



As part of the National Reactor Testing Station (now known as the Idaho National Laboratory), EBR-I's construction started in late 1949. The reactor itself was designed by a team led by Walter Zinn at the Argonne National Laboratory. Installation of the reactor at EBR-I took place in early 1951 and the first reaction went critical on August 24, 1951. On December 20 of that year, atomic energy was successfully harvested for the first time. The following day the reactor produced enough power to light the whole building. The power plant produced 200kW of electricity out of 1.4MW of heat generated by the reactor. [5]

The design purpose of EBR-I was not to produce electricity but instead to validate nuclear physics theory which suggested that a breeder reactor should be possible. In 1953, experiments revealed the reactor was producing additional fuel during fission, thus confirming the hypothesis. However, on November 29, 1955, the reactor at EBR-I suffered a partial meltdown due to operator error. It was subsequently repaired for further experiments.

Besides generating the world's first electricity from atomic energy, EBR-I was also the world's first breeder reactor and the first to use plutonium fuel to generate electricity (Also See Clementine). EBR-1's initial purpose was to prove Enrico Fermi's fuel breeding principle, a principle that showed a nuclear reactor producing more fuel atoms than consumed. Along with generating electricity, EBR-1 would also prove this principle. EBR-I was deactivated in 1964 and replaced with a new reactor, EBR-II. Landmark status for EBR-I was granted by President Lyndon Johnson and Glenn T. Seaborg on August 25, 1966.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.[2][6]

The site has been open to the public since 1976, but is only open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Also on display at the site are two prototype reactors from the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Project of the 1950s.

There is also a separate facility called Experimental Breeder Reactor II.

See also



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.  
  2. ^ a b "Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-06.  
  3. ^ Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 factsheet, Idaho National Laboratory
  4. ^ Fifty years ago in December: Atomic reactor EBR-I produced first electricity American Nuclear Society Nuclear news, November 2001
  5. ^ Nuclear energy for peace: the birth of nuclear energetics
  6. ^ Blanche Higgins Schroer (June 12, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Experimental Breeder Reactor #1" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-22.   and Accompanying 4 photos, from 1975.PDF (1.43 MB)


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