IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-I) typically welcomes visitors from around the world during the summer months. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum will not open its doors this year. Visitors can, however, experience the world’s first nuclear power plant through two different technologies: TravelStorys and online tours.
TravelStorys is a free app you download on your phone – preferably before leaving home. The app has more than 135 audio tours spanning the United States. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL)/EBR-I tour launches June 1. Once you download the app – and the tour – you can drive U.S. 20 between Arco and Idaho Falls and listen to professional narration. You’ll learn about the history of the area and the mission of the lab. The stops are triggered by GPS locations and the tour is optimized for 70 mph.
“Every place has a story to tell. Our job is to deliver the story to the visitor as they experience the site, so that they understand, appreciate, and engage with these places in a new way,” said Christie Koriakin, production director at TravelStorysGPS, LLC.
You can also take the tour without leaving home by either downloading the app and clicking through it on your smartphone or by going to inl.gov/museum. In addition to the driving tour, you can virtually tour EBR-I. “When we started pulling the TravelStorys tour together last year, we thought it would supplement the EBR-I experience. We had no idea the museum would be closed this summer. So, we’re especially happy to be able to offer these tours,” said Sara Prentice, manager of Mission Enabling Communications Services. “This also allows people to tour the museum in the off-season and from a distance.”
If you’re needing some human interaction during your home quarantine or you want to expand your TravelStorys tour, another option is to sign up for an online tour. Museum staff members will give online tours of EBR-I using 360-degree photos. The public also can explore these photos on their own at the museum’s webpage at inl.gov/museum. To sign up for a virtual tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Alana McGurk’s third summer giving tours at EBR-I. “It’s definitely going to be different this year, but I think the online tour is a good way for people to see the museum. Especially those who don’t want to travel this year.”
The reactor was completed in 1951 and became the first nuclear reactor to produce a usable amount of electricity in December 1951. EBR-I was operated until late 1963 and decommissioned in 1964. It was dedicated as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson and Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.