b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEaltitude, the landscape retained its defi- Flying past each cluster, the pilotsnition of shallow swales, knolls, small looked for signs of disturbance. Eachridges, an occasional crater, and low area contained at least one buildinghills. Sometimes the pilots flew twice with a unique and unexpected shapethat high, and then these details dis- that rose up on the horizon and drewsolved, and the desert appeared as a the eye. At one, it was a large silverbroad, nearly flat plain, a phrase used dome. At another, it was the dark-often to describe this part of the Snake ribbed roof of an immense barrel-vault-River Plain. It was true, however, that ed building with the doors of anpancake-flat floors of undrained airplane hangar. At another area milesINEEL 89-582-7-1 basinsplayaswere also a feature of away, one could see a row of roundTest Reactor Area in foreground. Idaho Chemical the landscape at many places. 3 wooden cooling towers with steamyProcessing Plant, (now Idaho Nuclear Technology water vapor boiling into the frigid airEngineering Center) in middle distance. East and In the sub-zero temperatures of the like so many cauldrons of hot soup.Middle buttes on horizon. morning, the pilots swept over the Site,aided by the blazing blue brightness of The pilots were flying a random pat-the Idaho sky. A glance to the south tern. They had observed herds of deeralways afforded a stunning view of Big and elk near the eastern boundary, butSouthern Butte, impressive in any sea- no sign of poachers. They were headingson. Further east were two more buttes, back to CFA when Atwood noticed anamed East and Middle for their rela- faint wisp of steam rising fromwhat?tionship to Big Southern and each Apparently nothing. The spot was sev-other. Rising over 1,400 feet from the eral miles from one of the activity clus-flatness of the desert, the ancient volca- ters, and no ribbon of road wentnoes had been reliable landmarks for anywhere near it. He would haveINEEL 75-3690 travelers through the centuries. known if it were the scene of some spe-Containment dome and emission stack for Loss of cial test or experiment, so he tilted clos-Fluid Test at Test Area North. Below the helicopter, a carpet of snow er and circled the plume. He saw acovered the straw-toned and gray win- small ridge formed by what seemed toter colors of desert grasses and low be a lava tube. The steam drifted from ashrubs. Here and there the snowy hole in the top of the tube. He decidedexpanse gave way to an industrial com- it was merely the condensation of warmplex, its square corners and rectangular air from a void under the tube meetingshapes contrasting sharply with the the cold air outside. softer contours of the surrounding ter-rain. Approaching such a cluster from a Atwood noted the spot with the globallow altitude, one might imagine an positioning gear in the helicopter. Heencounter with a kind of enclosed city, returned to base and promptly forgot with towering exhaust stacks taking the about it. Something made him think ofINEEL 73-3049 place of spires and steeples, and chain- it again in 1988 and he decided toNaval Reactors Facility. Building in center houses link fences surrounding the buildings revisit the place. This time it wasS1W, the prototype for USS Nautilus. instead of high stone walls. spring. The desert was green, almostlush-looking from the air. Again thesun was bright, but a temperature of4'