IDAHO FALLS — On Feb. 18, 1949, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) made a decision that has had a lasting positive impact on Idaho and the nation: It decided to build the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) in eastern Idaho.
In 2005, Congress designated the Idaho site as the nation’s lead nuclear energy research and development laboratory. At that point, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) was born.
Feb. 18, 2019, marks the 70th anniversary of the federal government installation in eastern Idaho.
Over that time, INL has played a central role in the development of the commercial nuclear energy industry and supported U.S. Naval nuclear propulsion technology.
INL built and operated 52 original nuclear reactors. Today, the laboratory works to extend the lives of U.S. commercial nuclear reactors that generate 19 percent of America’s electricity and more than half of our carbon-free electricity.
INL also works with industry to develop, demonstrate and deploy next-generation reactors.
The seven-decade evolution of INL has extended the laboratory’s reach beyond nuclear energy. INL is a world leader in cybersecurity and power grid resiliency.
The laboratory also is a leader in broader clean energy research, including electric vehicle batteries, biomass, integration of renewables such as wind and solar into the power grid, and development of integrated energy systems that will allow industry to produce products more efficiently while reducing carbon emissions.
“We are incredibly proud of our R&D history and grateful to those who came before us at INL,” said Laboratory Director Mark Peters. “But, even as we celebrate 70 successful years, all of us at INL are focused on the future. We are determined to help ensure America’s safety and prosperity for decades to come through our clean energy and national security research.”
Seven decades ago, Idaho’s leading citizens and policymakers lobbied the federal government to build the NRTS in the Gem State.
People such as Idaho Falls Mayor Tom Sutton, newspaper publisher E.F. McDermott and businessman Bill Holden knew the NRTS would serve the nation by enabling the use of atomic energy for electricity production.
They also anticipated that the NRTS would benefit eastern Idaho’s economy. That proved true 70 years ago and continues today.
INL contractor Battelle Energy Alliance is Idaho’s sixth largest private employer. The laboratory’s total economic output exceeds $2 billion, and in the recent fiscal year, INL spent more than $148 million with Idaho businesses.