Already 68 years of nuclear electricity!
68 years ago, on December 20, 1951, the first kilowatt-hour of nuclear energy was generated by EBR-I (Experimental Breeder Reactor I, the ancestor of today’s “Generation IV” breeder reactors) at the Idaho National Laboratory in the United States.
That day, the reactor produced enough energy to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs. The next day, its power was increased to 100 megawatts, which allowed it to heat the building in which it was housed.
The main task of EBR-I was to prove the hypothesis that a reactor of a certain design – with “fast” neutrons, so-called because they are not moderated (slowed down) by water or graphite – could, through the process of nuclear fission followed by neutron capture, produce new nuclear fuel « from within ». The hypothesis was validated at EBR-I in 1953, meaning that the Idaho reactor was also the first to generate electricity from both uranium and plutonium. Today, several fast neutron reactor designs are under development, but only the one with liquid sodium moderator, as at EBR-I, has been deployed commercially.
In 1966, at the ceremony recognizing EBR-I as a national monument, American President Lyndon Johnson declared that it was in this isolated place in Idaho that the hope of harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful use was born.
Its legacy lives in the hundreds of nuclear reactors that provide abundant decarbonated energy, available to everyone, all the time, in any kind of weather, and for a long time to come !
Happy birthday and long life to nuclear energy 🎂!