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INL's Advanced Test Reactor at sunrise

INL's unique Advanced Test Reactor is a key part of the lab's mission to ensure the nation's energy security with safe, competitive and sustainable energy systems.

The National Nuclear Laboratory

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a mission to ensure the nation's energy security with safe, competitive and sustainable energy systems and unique national and homeland security capabilities. INL stands out as a distinctly capable science and technology resource. Notably, the lab serves as the nation's command center for advanced nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment, and is home to the unparalleled Advanced Test Reactor and allied post-irradiation examination, fuel fabrication and materials testing and development assets. Leveraging these and numerous other distinguishing features, the lab and its more than 4,300 scientists, engineers and support personnel build on the potential and promise of the theoretical for the benefit of the real world.

A Proud Past and High-performing Present

INL is one of only ten multiprogram national laboratories owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Geographically, INL is the largest lab — its nearly 570,000-acre desert operations site also serves as a national environmental research park. As with its sister laboratories, INL performs work in support of each of the DOE's strategic theme areas — energy security, nuclear security, scientific discovery and environmental responsibility.

INL's unique national security capabilities include researchers internationally recognized for their ability to protect critical information and control systems from cyber threats.

In the early days, INL was known as the National Reactor Testing Station. Since 1949, the Idaho site has been the location of many pioneering developments in the area of nuclear energy. The world's first usable amount of electricity from nuclear energy was generated in Idaho in 1951. Over the years, 52 mostly first-of-their-kind reactors were designed and built at Idaho's national laboratory, creating the largest concentration of reactors in the world. After completing their work, most have since been decommissioned.

Although INL today reports up through DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, the lab conducts a wide range of agency-supporting activities.

Nuclear Science and Engineering

INL is the leading laboratory in basic and applied nuclear and radiological science research and applications. Both DOE and non-DOE customers request the expertise and assistance of INL's leading nuclear scientists to address critical needs. For example, INL functions as a centralized technology integrator for DOE's Fuel Cycle Research & Development program.

With more than 60 years of experience in nuclear reactor plant design, operations and decommissioning and nuclear materials processing, INL expertise is routinely sought by national and international customers. These standout capabilities are key to supporting DOE's Light Water Reactor Sustainability and Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems programs. All INL nuclear operations are based on a long tradition of safe and cost-effective operations.

National Security Research and Testing

INL's applied engineering discipline and build-test-build problem-solving approach help the departments of Energy, Defense and Homeland Security, as well as industry partners solve significant national security challenges in critical infrastructure protection and nuclear nonproliferation.

INL's Energy & Environment Science & Technology Directorate supports diverse research activities.
The laboratory's signature capabilities, expertise and unique infrastructure assets support efforts to secure industrial control systems from cyber and physical threats, develop advanced nuclear facility safeguards and design advanced wireless sensors and protocols. INL's 890-square-mile infrastructure test range and collocated laboratories provide an ideal backdrop for conducting significant national security demonstrations and experiments. Test facilities include an isolated, utility-scale power grid loop, a comprehensive cellular network, vast nuclear materials testing and analysis facilities, a bulk explosives test bed and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle runway.

Development of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Solutions

An overarching thrust of INL research is energy security — the nation's greatest challenge for the 21st Century. Energy security includes resource security, economic stability and long-term environmental sustainability. Scientists and engineers are exploring solutions to grand challenges in the areas of clean energy development, competing water resource management, and carbon life-cycle options in order to get the right type of energy to the right place at the right time.

INL researchers are configuring and testing hybrid energy systems to increase the range of beneficial energy options, and to demonstrate that renewable, fossil and nuclear energy systems can be successfully and effectively integrated for greater efficiencies. They also validate the efficiency of using clean energy sources to recycle captured carbon dioxide into chemical feedstocks and consumer goods.

Still others in the lab's research community are poised to overcome key barriers facing the U.S. bioenergy industry — by harnessing cellulosic biomass resources and enabling the production of biofuels and other renewable value-added products. Mainstream research is significantly expanding DOE's ability to evaluate new battery technologies through applied research, development and diagnostics — leading to advanced batteries that live longer, are safer and are more cost-effective for electric-drive vehicles.

(Published Jan. 17, 2012)

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