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Reaching for Altitude: Nuclear Turbojet Engines in the Desert

October 3 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Museum of Idaho Speaker Series Event w/ Libby Cook and Sydnee Pagan

No pre-registration for Museum Club is required. Museum Club is included with museum admission. As always, members get in free! Not a member yet? Become one now!

The idea for a nuclear-powered aircraft was envisioned before the end of World War II. In 1951, that idea came to fruition when the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) Program was created to develop a nuclear-powered bomber for the military. To accomplish this, Test Area North at the Idaho National Laboratory, then the National Reactor Testing Station, was established in 1953 to create, test, and prove that heat from a nuclear reactor could propel a turbojet engine. The facility included a Hangar, a test area for the engines, a post-examination area, and a rail track and locomotive that connected all of these areas.

Three Heat Transfer Reactor Experiments (HTRE) turbojet engines were created. The experiments became progressively more robust to push the limits and further prove the principle of a nuclear-powered aircraft. Though the results were promising, the U.S. Government opted to pursue more reliable intercontinental ballistic missile technology.  The ANP Program was cancelled in 1961 leaving behind its HTRE Engines, aircraft hangar, and surrounding facilities.

The ANP Program spent approximately $1 billion dollars over a period of 15 years. Though a nuclear-powered aircraft in its entirety was not achieved, the program was a large monetary commitment in pursuit of weapon supremacy over the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The experiments represent a remarkable legacy of the Cold War.

About the speakers:

Libby Cook received her PhD in Early American History from William & Mary in 2017. Between then and now, she found herself developing a career in cultural resource management and historic preservation, in the private sector, at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, at the Nevada Department of Transportation, and now at the Idaho National Laboratory.

After spending five years in Archaeology, Sydnee Pagan shifted her focus to historic buildings and currently works as an Architectural Historian at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) where she documents and preserves historic buildings at the INL Site and helps to ensure Section 106 compliance. Her study in Anthropology helps her to approach her work with a holistic view, exploring ways to apply her Archaeology background to more recent historic resources. Most recently, she co-authored a report documenting the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion’s aspirations at the INL including the buildings and structures that served their purpose.

Museum Club is funded in part by Red Cedar Wealth Advisors.



October 3
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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