Argonne National Laboratory’s fast reactors in Idaho

May 23, 2024, 3:01PMNuclear NewsR. N. Blomquist
The Argonne-West laboratory site before it was merged with the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory into today’s Idaho National Laboratory. The silver dome in the photo is Experimental Breeder Reactor-II, the silver structure with the flat top and sloping sides is the Zero Power Plutonium Reactor, and the brown boxlike structure behind ZPPR is the Hot Fuel Examination Facility. (Photo: Argonne National Laboratory)

Idaho’s nuclear energy history is deep and rich. The National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) began its history as an artillery testing range in the 1940s.1 Following World War II, Walter Zinn, Argonne National Laboratory’s founding director and Manhattan Project Chicago Pile-1 project manager, proposed to the Atomic Energy Commission that a remote location be found for building test reactors. In 1949, he and Roger S. Warner, AEC’s director of engineering,2 developed a list of potential sites from which the NRTS was selected. Over the decades, quite a few companies and AEC national laboratories built 52 experimental and test reactors at the NRTS, including 14 by Argonne.3 (For a brief AEC video on the NRTS, see

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