Familiar Scenery

In 1973, I was a student at the Naval Reactor Facilities in the Idaho Desert on the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory – now Idaho National laboratory, an 890 square miles (2,300 km2) complex located in the high desert land of eastern Idaho.

As a student at one of the three Naval training reactors, I worked rotating shift work, 7 days in a row on each shift, with varying number of days off in between as we rotated to the different shifts.  I think there was a 2 off, 3 off, and 5 off.  On weekdays, I worked 12 hour days as a non-qualified student; weekends were 8 hour days.  Students were required to ride buses to the site because of the long hours and the 2 to 3 hour daily round-trip commute, depending on where you lived on the bus routes.

Three buttes – all of volcanic origin.

Three buttes, Idaho National Laboratory

The site and the mountains beyond.  You can see some of the facilities off in the distance.

Idaho National Laboratory site

No Trespassing. The little yellow Department of Energy sign warns that this is a restricted area and that unauthorized people are to stay out.

No trees in this high country desert.  It’s a sagebrush steppe – a treeless plain, a temperate, semi-arid landscape of shrubs (sagebrush) and widely spaced bunchgrass.  Total precipitation is about 8 inches per year.

Our motorhome and car on the highway between Idaho Falls and Arco.

Our motorhome and car on the road between Idaho Falls and Arco on the Idaho National Laboratory

Needless to say, the humidity is very low here, and the fire danger can be very high.

Relative humidity. dew point, and solar energy on the Idaho national laboratory  This display is from a monitoring station at a rest area on the Big Lost River, just a few miles west of where the rest to the photos were taken.


In 1977, after 3 years of submarine duty, I was assigned instructor duty back at the Naval Reactors Facility.  We lived for about 6 months in Idaho Falls.  As an instructor, I didn’t have to take the bus, but still did a good share of the time. 

In the fall, we were able to assume the loan on a house in Arco, which is west of the Idaho National Laboratory.  My commute time was cut to about an hour a day.  There were other guys from my crew living there also, so for the next three years, most of the time I carpooled to work.

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