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Arco turned out to be the sleeper stopover of the whole trip. We needed a place to stop while going from Yellowstone to Boise. Arco ID was about halfway. The plan was to stay 3 nights, just to rest on our way to Boise. We had planned to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument. On the drive, we passed the high security INL labs. I guess they put it out here in the middle of nowhere, so that if it went up in a mushroom cloud, no one would notice. As we drove down the highway passing the INL labs, we saw a sign for the Experimental Breeder Reactor One (EBR I) National HIstoric sight. It turns out that Arco has the distinction of being the first city to be lit by atomic energy.

IMG_2694IMG_2692Craters of the Moon National Monument was an eye opener. After the green and luscious scenery of Yellowstone, Craters was totally the opposite. The raw, stark beauty of the desolate landscape broken by the occasion bush or tortured tree, yet wildlife abounds, chipmunks, birds, beetles. Apparently the Apollo astronauts trained here to get familiar with the type of landscape that they might encounter.

IMG_2764The INL labs were on the forefront of reactor design, building small prototypes of various designs to evaluate the design. One of the things I learned about the Atomic Museum and the INL labs; they designed and tested the transport pods that needed to be used for transporting nuclear material. In fact there are 34 pods (or so) siting at the INL labs, containing the material from the 3 Mile Island reactor cores.

The Pickle Place serves really good food, featuring the Atomic Burger. The north side of the town is bordered by ‘Number Mountain’. Each graduating class has scaled the mountain to paint their ‘year’ on the side of the mountain. This tradition started back with the graduating class of 1920.

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One of the other odd artifacts in the park is the conning tower of the USS Hawkbill. The submarine was decommissioned in 2000 and recycled. The town acquired the conning tower in 2003 and it was installed in the town park to show their appreciation of the nuclear force and reinforce their association with the development of nuclear power.

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