Oops. Another meltdown.

World's First Nuclear Power Plant: Tour

Field review by the editors.

Arco, Idaho

Looking out over the flat expanse south of Arco, its understandable why it has been used for nuclear reactor experimentation and development. Any slip-ups would render uninhabitable a plain already devoid of trees or towns. It's pretty empty here still, with most of the 900-square mile Idaho National Engineering Laboratory closed to the public.

A historical marker at a scenic pull-off boasts that "Since 1949, more nuclear reactors -- over 50 of them -- have been built on this plain than anywhere else in the world."

The world's first peacetime use of nuclear power occurred when the U.S. Government switched on Experimental Breeder Reactor #1 (EBR-1) near Arco, Idaho, on December 20, 1951. The town of Arco* became the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power from a reactor built near EBR-1, the BORAX III, on July 17, 1955. It was only temporary, but the way was paved for commercial use of nuclear power. The Arco reactor later suffered a partial meltdown -- another World's First. There's no highway sign bragging about that.

Suited up for the Atomic Tour.

At EBR-1, tours are self-guided. See the first light bulbs lit by atomic power and "the hot cell," sealed from the rest of the world since 1974, and protected from you by multiple layers of oil-separated glass over three feet thick. They made plutonium-239 in this blocky building. You can take pictures, try your skill at operating a robotic arm, and act out your own Chernobyl in the main control room.

Outside, picnic tables are thoughtfully provided under a pair of house-sized atomic jet engines, another experiment. Nowadays the site likes to promote its peacetime mission and environmental charter.

*A yearly highlight in Arco is its annual "Atomic Days" celebration, usually held the second or third weekend in July.

World's First Nuclear Power Plant: Tour

Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 Visitor Center

US-26/20, Arco, ID
Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 Visitor Center. From the I-15/US-26 interchange in Blackfoot, drive west on US-26 to the intersection US-20. Turn left to go west toward Arco. The left turn to EBR-1 is 5.5 miles from the US-26/20 intersection. The turn is marked with a large EBR-1 sign. The museum is another two miles down the access road on the left.
Summer only, daily 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Atomic CityAtomic City, Atomic City, ID - 11 mi.
Home of the Atomic BurgerHome of the Atomic Burger, Arco, ID - 17 mi.
Devil Boat - Submarine In The DesertDevil Boat - Submarine In The Desert, Arco, ID - 17 mi.
In the region:
Uniroyal Gal, Blackfoot, ID - 40 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Idaho

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Idaho.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

October 26, 2020

My Sights

My Sights

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Idaho Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Martian Landing Site Monument, Grovers Mill, New Jersey (Oct 26-Nov 1, 2020)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special rates for hotels.

Book Now