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Built and operated for 15 years by Argonne National Laboratory, Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR-1) achieved a number of historical firsts and spawned a huge international industry that today plays a major role in meeting the world's energy needs.
Housed in a small building on a wind-swept Idaho plain, EBR-1 was the first nuclear reactor to produce useful electricity – enough to power a simple string of four 100-watt light bulbs on Dec. 20, 1951.
The next day, EBR-1's output was boosted to 100 kilowatts, enough to power all of its own electrical equipment.
During its 15-year career, EBR-1 was the site of two other historical firsts:
• June 4, 1953 – world's first reactor to demonstrate the breeding of plutonium from uranium.
• Nov. 27, 1962 – world's first reactor to produce electricity with a plutonium core.
On December 30, 1963, its scientific mission complete, EBR-I was officially shut down, but its career was not over.
On Aug. 26, 1966, 15,000 people watched President Lyndon B. Johnson preside over ceremonies that designated the retired reactor a Registered Historical National Monument.