Looking out over the flat expanse of Arco, Idaho, it’s understandable why it’s been used for nuclear reactor experimentation. Any slip ups would render uninhabitable a plain that is already devoid of trees or towns. It’s pretty empty here still, with the 900 square mile Idaho National Energy Laboratory closed to the public. A historical marker boasts, “Since 1949, more nuclear reactors, over 50 of them, have been built on this plain, more than anywhere in the world.” In 1951, Arco became the first city to be lit by atomic power. It was only temporary, but paved the way for commercial use of nuclear power. The Arco reactor later suffered a partial meltdown – another world’s first. But there’s no highway sign bragging about that.
Craters of the Moon National Monument is due to historic lava flows, has nothing to do with the nuclear power plant, and is a delightfully spooky place to visit.