Arco, Idaho

Arco, Idaho. First city in the world to be lit by atomic power. Elevation 5320.

As you drive through Arco on US 26, before the junction of West Grand Avenue and South Front Street, you’ll find a grand building faced with lava rock from the area with the lighted sign claiming to be the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power (elevation 5320).

On July 17, 1955, electricity generated by Boiling Water Reactor No. 3 (BORAX-III) was fed over the lines serving Arco, producing approximately 2,000 kilowatts of electrical power for about two hours.

Charles Pieper, along with Zeke Stewart (directing from his hospital bed after suffering a heart attack), and John Yeates (Philips Electrical Engineer), devised the method for putting the atomic power generated by BORAX-III into the lines which Utah Power used to serve Arco.

The building has served many purposes in the past from visitor center to civic offices, and is currently a community center. The anniversary of the event is celebrated each year with Atomic Days, the weekend closest to July 17.

For more information:
Arco — First Atomic City. (2022). Butte County IDGenWeb.
Troyer, D. (2004, July 4). Arco’s nuclear claim to fame. American Profile.

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