History of INL

Celebrating 75 years of science and engineering

Our History

Employees of Idaho National Laboratory today understand the debt we owe those who came before us. The work we do in support of our clean energy and national security missions is built upon the research and development foundation established by our predecessors over seven decades of achievement. 

Browse the interactive timeline below to learn more about our history and some of our notable research achievements and accomplishments from the past, present and future.

Historic Photos and Videos

Browse photos and videos from the earliest days of the National Reactor Testing Station and learn more about our past research and how it’s shaping the future.

Then and Now: Research Campuses and Facilities

For 75 years, INL has been home to scientific innovations in advanced nuclear, renewable energy and security solutions across its world-class research campuses and facilities. See how just a few of them have evolved over the years and how they continue to make an impact today.

Advanced Test Reactor

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1969 – today

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) is the world’s premier nuclear test reactor. ATR has provided unmatched, national priority nuclear fuel and materials testing capabilities for military, federal, university and industry partners and customers for over 50 years.

Central Facilities Area

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1967 – today

Located centrally on the INL Site, the Central Facilities Area (CFA) has served as the main service and support center for INL’s desert facilities since the National Reactor Testing Station was established in 1949. CFA houses many technical and support services, including administrative offices, monitoring and calibration laboratories, fire protection, medical services, warehouses, vehicle and equipment pools, and bus operations. 

Experimental Breeder Reactor-I

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1951 – today

Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I) made history on Dec. 20, 1951, when for the first time, atomic energy produced more electricity than it consumed and powered four lightbulbs. Today, EBR-I’s legacy lives on as National Historic Landmark and museum where visitors can learn about its impact and is the only place in America you can see four nuclear reactors — including two aircraft nuclear propulsion prototypes, a reactor control room and much more. The facility’s former machine shop now serves as an entryway to the museum.

Materials and Fuels Complex

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1963 – today

Since 1961, the Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) has been a prime testing center for advanced technologies associated with nuclear energy power systems. MFC contributes significantly to the development of increasingly efficient reactor fuels and the important work of nonproliferation.

Research and Education Campus

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1999 – today

The Research and Education Campus is the collective name for INL’s administrative, educational, technical support and computer facilities in Idaho Falls, as well as in-town laboratories where researchers work on a wide variety of advanced scientific research and development projects. The campus name reflects the lab’s connection to university and energy research. 

Specific Manufacturing Capability

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1999 – today

Since 1984, INL’s Specific Manufacturing Capability (SMC) has been the lead manufacturer of armor packages for the U.S. Army’s Abrams main battle tank. SMC has the ability to provide independent technical evaluations and solutions to manufacturing, engineering, and material science for a variety of programs and customers. SMC is designated as the Abrams Armor Center of Excellence.

Idaho's 52 Reactors​

Since 1949, 52 reactors have been built and operated on INL’s 890-square-mile site. Although names at the site changed over the years, nearly every operating reactor in the world has technological roots in Idaho.

Stories from the Past

Discover the history of groundbreaking research, the unearthing of prehistoric archaeological relics and the stories of the people that helped make it all possible.

Protecting and Preserving Cultural Resources

The success of INL’s missions are underpinned by a commitment to safeguarding the rich history of the land it occupies. As such, INL’s Cultural Resource Management Office works closely with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office to preserve cultural resources representing 13,500 years of human use on the 890-square mile site.

Idaho National Laboratory