Idaho National Laboratory Overview and Economic Profile

INL has been at the forefront of innovation and technological change over the last 70 years, and its operation contributes strongly to the Idaho economy.

Robert Spendlove and Joseph Mayans Aug 17, 2018


The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the nation’s premier center for advanced nuclear energy research and development. Originally founded in 1949 as the National Reactor Testing Station, INL is now one of the Department of Energy’s seventeen national laboratories. Among other objectives, the lab is tasked with developing nuclear power and clean energy technologies and strengthening the security of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Since its inception, the lab has been on the forefront of innovation and technological change. In 1951, INL produced the first usable amount of electricity from a nuclear reactor and is the first to use nuclear-generated electricity to power an American town. In modern times, the lab’s pioneering space battery technology was used to power NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover and the Pluto New Horizons spacecraft. 

Economic Impact

INL has a significant impact on Idaho’s economy. In 2017, INL was the sixth-largest private employer in the state, directly employing 4,256 workers and supporting the jobs of nearly 7,800 other Idahoans. With its large employment base and federally-allocated budget, the lab added nearly $2 billion to Idaho’s economy in 2017. In addition to its economic effects, INL plays a substantial role in developing the next generation of scientists. The lab has partnerships with several of Idaho’s universities, and works to develop K-12 STEM education throughout the state by providing school grants and educator training.

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