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reactor in Elk River, 1955
A truly unique anniversary passed this week, 57 years ago, on August 24, 1963. On that date, the Elk River atomic reactor generated the first nuclear power in Minnesota. After eight years of campaigning and planning, the Elk River nuclear plant opened for business. Unfortunately, the plant operated for only a brief time. Yet, it served as a highly informative experiment in nuclear plant operations.
Only ten years after nuclear power proved its strength,
the Rural Cooperative Power Association of Elk River developed a campaign to
introduce nuclear energy into the upper Midwest. According to a proposal submitted to the
Atomic Energy Commission in June 1955, a nuclear plant in Elk River could reduce
electricity production costs by fifty percent in five years.
The Atomic Energy Commission looked favorably on the Elk River proposal. In 1958, they granted approval to the project and construction began on this unique project. After five years of construction, the reactor first generated power and became the first reactor operated by a rural cooperative in the United States.
Unfortunately, the experiment at the Elk River plant failed. After five years of operation, the plant closed in 1968. Officials reported the plant lacked cost effectiveness. By 1975 the entire reactor had been dismantled.
Planning and construction took more time than the operation of the plant itself. Although the operation of the plant failed, the experiment provided insight into the construction and operation of a nuclear plant in the United States.