Remembering the world's 1st reactor meltdown... in Idaho

With all the attention on Japan's reactor troubles, let's remember the very first nuclear power plant meltdown. It happened in Idaho. Never heard of that one? The world's first electricity-generating power plant was built in the middle of the Idaho outback. Why there? Back in the 1940s, scientists were smart enough to realize that if something went wrong with a nuclear plant, the result would be really bad. No kidding! 60 years later, we're still learning that one. The Idaho plant, called EBR-I, was constructed in the middle of nowhere. I've been there, and it really is incredibly remote. It's a good thing they built a rest stop nearby, because otherwise it's 50 miles to the nearest bathroom. If the reactor ever exploded, it wouldn't kill anyone other than a couple hermits living in a nearby "town" called Atomic City. (I know, Atomic City sounds like something out of The Simpsons, but it's real—and kinda scary.)

The point here is that they built the first reactor far from civilization—so that if anything went wrong, the loss of life would be minimized. And sure enough, something went wrong. On November 29, 1955, the reactor melted down. But, thanks to its location, the effect on non-hermit human life was minimal. Actually, the local story is that there remains a weird ant species out there—which was genetically altered by the meltdown. It's the joke they tell on the visitor tour... at least I hope it's a joke.
Story continues... read on to see the nuclear-powered plane experiment...

Yes, you can still tour the EBR-I facility. But it's a long drive from anywhere. Again, that's for a good reason... it seems nuclear power folks were smarter about these things back in the day.

Then again, maybe not. If you tour EBR-I you can also see the nuclear-powered airplane engines they built. No kidding! Imagine, a nuclear-powered plane, packed with radiation, flying over our cities. What could go wrong?

Below is a photo of the nuclear airplane engine... and a satellite view of the EBR-I facility.

View EBR-1 in a larger map

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