Idaho is situated in the north-west area of the United States of America. It is the fourteenth largest state and the seventh within the least densely populated. Its capital city Boise, reaches 200’000 inhabitants (as an average Italian City), with a population density of 1’200 people per km2, whereas that of the whole state is fixed at 7 per km2.
In 1949, the US Department of Energy decided to build a nuclear power research and testing lab with one of the very first reactors in history right in the centre of Idaho.
Even before the 1950s, the area had been chosen by the Army as the designated location for new weapons testing. In fact, it perfectly fitted, and still does, to the Government needs of a desert state - in 1950 Idaho’s population density reached 2 people per km2 - and a set socio-economic situation - its population to this day is mainly constituted by land workers and farmers.
In 1951, the EBR I (Experimental Breeder Reactor I) was able to produce enough electricity to light up four light bulbs. Later on, it managed to be self-sufficient and finally, on July 17th, 1955, the reactor was connected to the electricity line of Arco, a small town within 18-mile distance, that officially became the first city in history to be fully alimented by nuclear power.
The first reactor remained active until 1964 when it was then replaced by more recent nuclear plants built within the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). This modern experimentation centre occupies 2’310 km2 and gives work to 4000 people. This presence can be said to heavily affect the life of the 995 inhabitants of this small town.
During these sixty years, every 17th July the “Atomic Days” are celebrated in Arco. This is despite the occurrence of more than one accident, and the continuous monitoring of the contamination level on both the population and the surroundings, as well as cancer and work-related illnesses being the first death cause in the valley.
At the end of the day, nuclear research provided these people with the certainty of a secure and well-paid job, most of the times given as soon as they finished their High School studies.
Moreover, it brought in the valley new people and gave, when necessary, substantial refunds. Here in Idaho, the Nuclear plant, from that July in 1955, has brought not only work but also hope for the future.
(images by Francesco Biasi and Chiara Bandino)
On july 1955, Arco, Idaho in the USA became the first city in the world to be completely powered by nuclear energy. If it were not for the Atomic Days
that are held every 17 July to commemorate that event,
Arco would be a town like any other American suburb.
But it isn't any other town, because over the years that first reactor built in 1950 became one of the most important American nuclear research centres, covering an area of 2.310 square km. The presence cannot but affect the life of a small town of 995 inhabitants. The majority of them work, or have worked, for the research centre, often hired - and well paid too - just after they graduate from High School. The plant offers the only possibility for work. It is fo this reason, perhaps, that no one seems worried about constant monitoring of radiation levels and the deaths that are affecting so many families. Here the Nuclear plant, from that July in 1955,has brought work and future.