The INL Site is a nuclear energy and homeland security research and environmental management facility. It is owned and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (DOE-ID) and occupies about 890 mi2 (2,300 km2) of the upper Snake River Plain in Southeastern Idaho (Figure 1). The history of the INL Site began during World War II when the U.S. Naval Ordnance Station was located in Pocatello, Idaho. This station, one of two such installations in the U.S., retooled large guns from U.S. Navy warships. The retooled guns were tested on the nearby, uninhabited plain, known as the Naval Proving Ground. In the years following the war, as the nation worked to develop nuclear power, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), predecessor to the DOE, became interested in the Naval Proving Ground and made plans for a facility to build, test, and perfect nuclear power reactors.
The Naval Proving Ground became the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) in 1949, under the AEC. By the end of 1951, a reactor at the NRTS became the first to produce useful amounts of electricity. Over time the site has operated 52 various types of reactors, associated research centers, and waste handling areas. The NRTS was renamed the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) in 1974, and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) in January 1997. With renewed interest in nuclear power the DOE announced in 2003 that Argonne National Laboratory and the INEEL would be the lead laboratories for development of the next generation of power reactors. On February 1, 2005 the INEEL and Argonne National Laboratory-West became the INL. The INL is committed to providing international nuclear leadership for the 21st Century, developing and demonstrating compelling national security technologies, and delivering excellence in science and technology as one of the Department of Energy's multiprogram national laboratories.
The Idaho Cleanup Project (ICP) is now a separately managed effort. The ICP is charged with safely and cost-effectively completing the majority of cleanup work from past laboratory missions in an ongoing process.
Radiation has always been a part of the natural environment in the form of cosmic radiation, cosmogenic radionuclides [carbon-14 (14C), Beryllium-7 (7Be), and tritium (3H)], and naturally occurring radionuclides, such as potassium-40 (40K), and the thorium, uranium, and actinium series radionuclides which have very long half lives. Additionally, human-made radionuclides were distributed throughout the world beginning in the early 1940s. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons from 1945 through 1980 and nuclear power plant accidents, such as the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union during 1986, have resulted in fallout of detectable radionuclides around the world. This natural and manmade global fallout radioactivity is referred to as background radiation. MORE
The primary concern regarding radioactivity is the amount of energy deposited by particles or gamma radiation to the surrounding environment. It is possible that the energy from radiation may damage living tissue. When radiation interacts with the atoms of a given substance, it can alter the number of electrons associated with those atoms (usually removing orbital electrons). This is called ionization. MORE