idaho national lab


One of the most prominent reactor safety research facilities in the world was the Loss-of-Fluid Test (LOFT) facility, located at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. This unique facility was a 50-MW(th) pressurized water reactor designed on the principle of volume scaling to simulate the major components and system responses of a four-loop commercial pressurized water reactor during a hypothetical loss-of-coolant accident. Extensive research programs were conducted at the LOFT facility under the sponsorship of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and later under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with funding from a consortium of ten countries.

Forty-four experiments were completed over a nine year period ending with a severe fuel damage experiment in July 1985. These experiments were conducted at typical initial and boundary conditions associated with loss-of-coolant accidents and anticipated transients in commercial pressurized water reactors. The research program included six nuclear large break loss-of-coolant accident experiments, the primary objective of which was to obtain data on loss-of-coolant accidents phenomena and system response for a range of initial and boundary conditions which could be used for reactor system code development and assessment.

Photos c. 1974-1975


The BORAX Experiments were a series of five destructive tests of boiling water reactors built and conducted by Argonne National Laboratory in the 1950s and 1960s at the National Reactor Testing Station in eastern Idaho.

The synopsis of the final test of BORAX-I in 1954, as seen in the photos above, is as follows: “The (test was) carried out by withdrawing four of the five control rods far enough to make the reactor critical at a very low power level. The fifth rod was then fired from the core by means of a spring. In this test, the rod was ejected in approximately 0.2 seconds. After the control rod was ejected, an explosion took place in the reactor which carried away the control mechanism and blew out the core. At half a mile, the radiation level rose to 25 mr/hr. Personnel were evacuated for about 30 minutes.”

The destruction of BORAX-I caused the “aerial distribution of contaminants resulting from the final experiment of the BORAX-I reactor” and the likely contamination of the topmost 1 foot of soil over about 2 acres in the vicinity. The site was cleaned prior to being used for subsequent experiments. The BORAX-I burial ground is located roughly 820 m (2,730 ft) northwest of the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I, a publicly accessible national monument. 

The only demonstration of BORAX-I principles during a real nuclear accident occurred several years later within the SL-1 (Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One) nuclear reactor operated by the United States Army, in which the reactor underwent a steam explosion and meltdown, subsequently killing its three operators.

RECS Day 8 - Natural and Industrial Analogues and CO2 Capture

June 13th - Wrapping up the final lecture on geologic carbon storage, Travis McLing, Sequestration Technical Lead from Idaho National Laboratory (below) discussed the importance of natural analogues (i.e. oil, gas and CO2 reservoirs) and industrial analogues (i.e. natural gas storage, CO2 enhanced oil recovery) to improving our understanding of engineered storage systems.

Travis McLing, RECS Faculty from Idaho National Laboratory

The program switched gears to focus on CO2 capture technologies from ARPA-E’s Dr. Mark Hartley and Alstom’s Dr. Barath Baburao. RECS alumni Dr. Pradeep Indrakanti (RECS 2009) from Leonardo Technologies, Inc. covered a methodology to compare post-combustion capture technologies and Miriam Okun from Columbia University (RECS 2009) gave an overview of CO2 capture from air.   

Leon Matejka is a retired engineer who worked at Idaho National Lab for 15 years. Bryan Smith, the Tea Party-backed candidate, appeals to Matejka because he wants to see federal spending reined in. But Matejka is conflicted. He believes it’s important to fund the lab because of the nuclear research conducted there. He also knows how critical it is to the local economy. A report by Boise State University a few years ago concluded that INL was responsible for a quarter of the jobs around Idaho Falls.

Txch This Week: Big Bang Discoveries And Startups In Space

by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we looked at groundbreaking discoveries and innovations changing the world and what we understand of it. First, researchers documented the existence of gravitational waves. These waves, first theorized by Albert Einstein, show that the universe expanded at an exponential rate and provides direct evidence of the phenomenon know as inflation immediately after the Big Bang.

Next, we looked at a social enterprise helping Myanmar’s farmers by designing and manufacturing helpful tools. Proximity Designs then uses robots to test their prototypes.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Labs use a virtual reality CAVE that lets them interact with complex environments in 3-D, while engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have designed a toilet system that uses sunlight and heat to turn sewage into a useful material for agriculture.

British scientists revived moss that has been frozen for as long as 1,700 years. The find is evidence that organisms can survive in suspended animation for extremely long periods of time.

Italian researchers have developed a radar powered by laser light. The significantly more precise technology has a wider bandwidth than current radars and can transmit much more information.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

Keep reading