Day 18 – Wednesday, July 17

We left Idaho Falls late this morning (ok, shortly after noon, as I did laundry at our hotel) and headed west, with Craters of the Moon National Monument the first planned stop on our day’s itinerary.  But on the way Toby suggested we make another stop first: at EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor – 1), the world’s first nuclear power plant, in Butte, Idaho.  IMG_3634The plant was decommissioned in 1964 and is now a national historic landmark, open to the public between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  The goal of EBR-I was not to produce electricity per se, but to show that a breeder reactor such as EBR-1 could work (check out the EBR-1 link above for more detail on the science, as I don’t want to bore readers here with the physics — which I would just copy from Wikipedia anyway, since I know nothing about it myself).  We received a 45-minute guided tour and then spent a little more time on our own exploring the facility, which is actually rather small, especially compared with today’s nuclear power plants.

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Our lovely tour guide at EBR-1

By this time we were starving, as it was already mid-afternoon, so we left and continued to the town of Arco for lunch.

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Pickle’s Place

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Arco town hall

Arco, it turns out, is also in the history books, as it was the first community in the world to be powered by electricity generated by nuclear energy (in 1955, four years after EBR-1 first generated atomic energy).  After lunch at a restaurant called Pickle’s Place — where we had, among other things, deep-fried pickles –we headed off to Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is pretty much what it sounds like: “a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush…a ‘weird and scenic landscape’ where yesterday’s volcanic events are likely to continue tomorrow,” as it says on the National Park Service website.  It’s a pretty cool place to spend a few hours exploring the amazing landscape, which we did.

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Craters of the Moon

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At Craters of the Moon. That little orange dot toward the top center of the mound is a person walking up an enormous hill of volcanic ash.

Then it was back on the road, for the several-hour drive to Boise, where we checked in to a Super 8 and crashed.