November 25, 2021

Today in 1960, the first atomic reactor for research and development began operation at Richland, Washington. The plant was built to determine the suitability of plutonium as a reactor fuel. There was a need to recycle plutonium resulting from weapons production. Plutonium would go on to be used as a power source in deep space missions, including the Voyager space probes.

Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. Credit: US Department of Energy