Experimental Breeder Reactor I

Experimental Breeder Reactor I

World's first nuclear power plant to demonstrate the breeder concept

On December 20, 1951, engineers and scientists at EBR-1 watched a string of four light bulbs spring to life. For the first time in history, electricity had been made with nuclear energy at the world's first nuclear power plant. EBR-1 ultimately achieved a more important milestone, the demonstration of the breeder concept in 1953, by producing more fuel than it consumed while generating electrical power. Much of the knowledge on which current and future nuclear reactors depend, particularly breeder reactors, can be attributed to EBR-1's eleven-year operation. The reactor was decommissioned and decontaminated in June of 1975.

Walter H. Zinn, the first director of Argonne National Laboratory, was responsible for the basic design. With the support of Enrico Fermi, Zinn completed his plans by 1945 for a small-scale proof-test facility for validating the breeding principle and for evaluating the feasibility of using a liquid metal as a coolant. Construction began in 1949.


Landmark Location

Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
Arco, ID

Owner, if different than above: Argonne National Laboratory

Ceremony Notes

October 1979