Gather, Yield, INEL, approximately 36″ by 48″, oil on panel.
Gather, Yield, INEL, detail.
This scene is from a trip to Idaho last August. INEL is a large swath of steppe on the northern fringe of the Snake River plains, between Idaho Falls and Arco. The distant mountains are the Lost River Range, which contain the highest peaks in Idaho and the head waters of the Lost and Little Lost Rivers which flow out into the desert and disappear into the lava badlands between Arco (“the first city in the world powered by atomic energy” and Craters of the Moon National Monument only to reappear many miles south at Thousand Springs on the northside of the Snake River Canyon near Hagerman. The high tension wires depicted are part of a network of lines that gathered the electricity generated from the dozens of nuclear reactors once operating within INEL. I was drawn to the imagery of the scene by the way in which the artifactual road and power lines receded into the distance in concert with the natural land forms.
Idaho National Energy Laboratory (“INEL”)Idaho National Energy (subsequently renamed Idaho National Energy and Environmental Laboratory and most recently renamed Idaho National Laboratory), together with the nuclear power industry, has been conducting a large scale experiment verifying the conjectures of Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan. INEL occupies eight hundred ninety square miles along the northern edge of the Snake River Plain, beneath the state’s highest mountains, the Lost River Range. It sits atop the Snake River Plain Aquifer, which provides the main source of water for more than 300,000 people and ultimately flows into the Columbia River, the largest river in the western United States. There are more than 50 nuclear reactors on the site, and the nearby town of Arco was the first city in the world to use electricity generated by nuclear power. The first fatalities at a nuclear reactor in the United States occurred at INEL in 1961 when a reactor exploded and melted down. An ambulance used to transport the victims became so radioactive from simply carrying the bodies that it had to be buried on the site as nuclear waste. INEL is currently the site of a multi-billion dollar cleanupattempting to locate and gather nuclear waste scattered atop the Snake River Plain Aquifer.
INEL is presently working on the design of the first post-Fukushima reactors meant to address the system failures of the most recently discovered unknown or highly improbable but actual risks of nuclear reactor operation. Undoubtedly, it will be involved in research remedying the next as yet unforeseen or underestimated risk of generating electricity with concentrated, long-lived radioactive fuel.