New $50 million research facility for recently “scorched” Idaho National Laboratory

Work is to begin on a new $50 million research and education facility at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

 

Much of what the world knows today about how nuclear reactors behave and misbehave was discovered at what is now Idaho National Laboratory, these facilities represent the largest concentration of nuclear reactors in the world. What is now Idaho National Laboratory in southeastern Idaho began its life as a U.S. government artillery test range in the 1940s.

 

On January 3, 1961, an experimental reactor called SL-1 (Stationary Low-Power Plant Number 1) was destroyed when a control rod was pulled too far out of the reactor, leading to core meltdown and a steam explosion. The reactor vessel jumped up 9 feet 1 inch (2.77 m).  The concussion and blast killed all three military enlisted personnel working on the reactor, one was found pinned to the ceiling by a radioactive control rod and could not be extracted for nearly a week.

Due to the extensive radioactive isotope contamination, all three had to have their hands and heads removed and dumped in a radioactive waste site, the bodies were so contaminated they had to be buried in lead coffins.

The new facility is part of a program of infrastructure upgrades at the US nuclear energy research and development centre launched in 2005 after decades in which no significant new research facilities were built at the site.  The federal research facility was established in 1949 as the “National Reactor Testing Station” (NRTS).

Work is to begin on the new facility – which will be leased to INL manager Battelle Energy Alliance – in spring 2012 with completion planned for summer 2013.

INL deputy laboratory director Dave Hill said the newest facility would enhance INL’s interactions with industry, academia and the community and serve as the “front door” for INL.

The Idaho site was for a short time named ERDA and then subsequently renamed to the “Idaho National Engineering Laboratory” (INEL) in 1977 with the creation of the Department of Energy (DOE) under President Carter. After two decades as INEL, the name was changed again to the “Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory” (INEEL) in 1997.

Throughout its lifetime, there have been more than 50 one-of-a-kind nuclear reactors built at the facility for testing, and over 25 meltdowns that have occured, the most famous being the SL-1 disaster. All but three reactors are shut down now.

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is an 890 square miles (2,300 km2) complex located in the high desert land of eastern Idaho, between the town of Arco to the west and the cities of Idaho Falls and Blackfoot to the east. It lies within Butte, Bingham, Bonneville and Jefferson counties.

Most of INL is essentially a desert space with some scrub vegetation and a number of facilities scattered throughout the area. The average elevation of the complex is 5,000 feet (1,524 m) above sea level.

A few publicly-accessible roads go through the INL area, but most of the area except EBR-I is restricted to authorized personnel only – those with appropriate security clearances. The tiny town of Atomic City is directly to the south of INL’s desert site.

 

Source: www.world-nuclear-news.org, via Twitter search for Nuclear Power
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