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Nuclear MythBusting: Using social media to set the record straight via East Idaho News

Paul Menser, INL Communications

IDAHO FALLS — Given its high percentage of true believers, Idaho Falls is probably the last place on earth where the merits of nuclear energy need to be argued.


The segments are hosted by Don Miley, a longtime INL tour guide used to speaking to people in a relaxed yet informative way. (Speaking to a camera is a new experience, he admits.)

“We hear all these myths or old wives’ tales about the lab,” he said. “We decided social media offers us a chance to say, ‘Here’s the real story.’” The first three videos were posted in February and March on INL’s YouTube channel.

A submarine in the desert?

In his years as a tour guide, Miley said he’s heard plenty of strange ideas about what goes on at INL. “Everyone who’s done nuclear communications has their favorites, like ‘there’s a nuclear sub buried out there in the desert.’”


The S1W reactor – S stood for “submarine,” 1 stood for “first generation,” and W stood for Westinghouse – was built inside a section of a submarine hull at the Naval Reactors Facility on the Arco Desert west of Idaho Falls and was the prototype for the first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, which was launched in 1954. By building the reactor and power plant inside a prototype hull section, engineers obtained valuable information supporting the Nautilus project. The Nuclear Navy was born. S1W was used for training sailors until it was shut down permanently in 1989.


The process for coming up with story ideas is basic brainstorming. Take something you’ve heard from someone – serious or ludicrous – and investigate it. “Bottom line is, we’re trying to help people be more knowledgeable about the lab and its history, as well as the critical research it performs.”

“Our philosophy is, ‘Let’s answer these things as succinctly as we can,’” Miley said.

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