If nothing else, serving in the Idaho House opens your eyes to how much you DON’T know. Yesterday, I got an education.

The last time I ventured out to “The Site” for a visit was during the fourth grade. The rest of my current knowledge comes from reading random stories in the local news. If you can imagine, a lot has happened at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in the last 30 years.

Today’s INL: “Mild Abuse” & EVIL

“The Site” is no longer just someplace out in the desert. The research facilities now located in Idaho Falls represent how the INL’s mission has evolved. We saw everything from “mild abuse” testing on batteries to the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Laboratory (EVIL…my favorite lab name).

The CAES facility offers a valuable work environment for researchers, educators, and students to get hands-on with their projects. Curious if you can store captured heat tens of thousands of feet underground? They’re looking into that. Forgive me for not remembering why they want the answer to that question. They buried us in information.

All these incredible projects and so much more is happening in Idaho Falls.

From there we headed out to the desert, and I got a blast from the past when we stopped at EBR 1. This place is my strongest memory from the fourth-grade field trip. It didn’t disappoint to remember the men and women who worked to prove nuclear power could generate electricity for a string of lights, a building, and eventually contribute to our grid.

An Evolving INL

The work didn’t stop. Today, these are just a few of the projects you’ll find out at “The Site:”

  • Fuel Safety Research: One of the biggest concerns with nuclear remains long-term safety. The INL conducts tests to find if certain fuels are more accident tolerant. Only three other countries in the world offer this fuel testing ability.
  • Powering NASA: Remember the Curiosity Rover that landed on Mars? The INL put together the power source for the rover and other space exploration projects. Today, they’re already working on the Mars 2020 rover launch.
  • The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) Turns 50: Based on a design the engineer drew in some dust, the ATR is still going strong and conducting experiments. It offers a test environment that generates results in weeks or months that would otherwise take years to replicate.

You’ve probably also seen stories about next-generation nuclear, including small modular reactors (SMR). The INL will be the site of the first SMR in the U.S.

In short, there’s a lot more to the INL than my memories of “The Site.”

So, why am I sharing all of this with you?

First, I think it’s cool.

But second, and most important, the INL is critical to Idaho’s future success. It provides valuable diversity to Idaho’s economy and offers the kind of high-paying jobs that will give our kids a reason to stay in (or return to) Idaho.

And did I mention it’s really cool?

I’m excited to keep learning about Idaho and all the amazing things happening in our community and state. I wish you and yours a wonderful and very Merry Christmas!