Far out on the sagebrush plains of Idaho the Atomic Energy Commission gave, in august 1954, newsmen the first public inspection of one of its most magnificent research tools, an atomic pile that produces radiation faster than anything else on earth except bombs. The installation, an $18-million, concrete, graphite and metal structure called the Materials Testing Reactor, derives its intense radiation from a core of uranium "about the size of two suitcases." It is used to discover the exotic effects of radiation - usually destructive, but sometimes useful - on substances ranging from steel and plastics to food. Many metal, tested in the MTR for possible use in future atomic power plants, are badly damaged. But meat, after irradiation in a canal unde the reactor, strangely is preserved from spoiling.

Reactor itself which sits above canal, looms high over men on floor who with tractor are removing 30-ton cannon-shaped "universal coffin." The coffin is used for withdrawing test samples from reactor interior.


A treated sample is pulled out of reactor through hollow center of "universal coffin" by man using long handling pole. Second man with Geiger counter is measuring amount of stray radiation escaping from coffin.


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images and info provided by the LIFE Magazine / LIFE Magazine International / LIFE Magazine Atlantic ARCHIVE from the Zetu Harrys Collection