Category Archives: Nuclear Legacy

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.


In front of the lobby of the Department of Energy‘s James V. Forestal Building, a low-rise Brutalist office building in Washington, D.C., is Robert Russin‘s Chthonodynamis sculpture carved from a single block of Norwegian granite.

Chthonic is derived from Ancient Greek meaning earth or soil. Dynamis (dunamis) also comes from Ancient Greek and refers to power and potentiality. Together, they form Russin’s description of the worldwide hunger for energy (“Earth Energy”). The sculpture depicts energy inside a hollow sphere, with the figure of a man attempting to contain it.

The 10-foot sculpture was installed in 1992. Russin was an American sculpture from Wyoming who created a number of public sculptures throughout the United States.

SL-1 Memorial Plaque

SL-1 Memorial Plaque at the EBR-1 Atomic Museum

New this year at the EBR-1 on U.S. 20/26 between Arco and Idaho Falls, ID, is a memorial plaque to honor the three men who died in January 1961 at the Stationary Low Power Reactor (SL-1).

Thanks to Joe Tokarz for sending us these pictures of the new memorial during his visit on May 15. In Joe’s words:

Thank you to the DOE & INL for their support in making the SL-1 Memorial a reality. Bring a chair. It is a perfect location for quiet contemplation of the sacrifices made by Byrnes, McKinley, and Legg and the lessons we learned. All gave some. Some gave all.

The EBR-1 Atomic Museum is open from Friday, May 27, through Labor Day, September 5, for the 2022 season. It’s open every day, and the museum is open from 9am-5pm for self-guided tours. The new memorial plaque is in the parking lot between the transport train and the aircraft engines.

For more information on the SL-1 accident, visit: SL-1 Accident Briefing Report 1961, SL-1 at Wikipedia, CE1 Richard Carlton Legg, SP5 John Arthur Byrnes III, and SP4 Richard Leroy McKinley.