ATR Complex named nuclear historic landmark

The American Nuclear Society dedicated Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor Complex as an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark at an award ceremony today.

The complex housed the original Materials Testing Reactor, built in 1952, the Engineering Test Reactor, built in 1957, and the Advanced Test Reactor, which began operation in 1967, a Nuclear Society news release said.

“The INL Advanced Reactor Complex has valuable history in nuclear energy research, safety, and security,” ANS President Andy Klein said at the dedication, according to the release. “The work performed at the complex today will help us meet current nuclear challenges and develop future advanced reactor technologies.”

The Materials Testing Reactor was the first light water reactor to operate using plutonium fuel, demonstrating the viability of the closed nuclear fuel cycle, the release said. Work performed at the Materials Testing Reactor supported in-core testing of materials and fuels in a nuclear reactor radiation environment and supported development of the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, that launched in 1954.

In 1957, the Engineering Test Reactor began operation as the largest and most advanced test reactor in the world with expanded capabilities. The U.S. Navy used the Engineering Test Reactor to simulate the pressures, temperatures, and chemistry of pressurized water reactors for power and propulsion with four times the Materials Testing Reactor’s flux levels, the release said.

Today, the Advanced Test Reactor remains the largest test reactor in the world with a unique serpentine fuel arrangement. The reactor’s available experimental space is shared by the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial users, other nations, Nuclear Science User Facilities members and the U.S. Navy. It is still revered as the nation’s premier resource for fuels and materials irradiation testing, nuclear safety research and nuclear isotope production, the release said.


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