b'P ROVING THE P RINCIPLEHe found a thirty-five-acre farm at thenorth edge of Idaho Falls owned by anThe First IRC Building older couple whose children wished torelieve their parents of the rigors ofT he first structure on the IRC prop- a ffect the fermentation and distillation farm management. EG&G bought theerty was the fuel alcohol plant. processes. If you did, productivity property and became the proud ownerDuring the Carter administration, went way down, and the economics of a barn, farmhouse, and potato cellar.DOE was promoting alternative of it became marginal at best. The first structure to go up on theenergy sources such as making fuel property was a fuel alcohol plant,alcohol from grain. This idea quick- In the end, not a lot of fuel alcohol which sat on a concrete pad. A t r a ile rly caught the attention of farmers plants were built, partly because we containing the plant controls waswho hoped that making their own managed to educate a lot of farmers parked nearby. Soon came anotherfuel might reduce their operating about what it would really take to run building. Keiser continued:costs. one profitably. Senator Frank Churchhad been a big supporter of the fuel As we designed the laboratory, weBut a lot of scam artists picked up on alcohol program. After he was defeat- thought twenty to twenty-five yearsthe idea as well, and they started sell- ed , James McClure became into the future. We made an ageg sr s i v eing alcohol plants to farmers at a Id o s senior senator. He favored push for new er s e ach programs and rah price around $50,000. These, of other research directions, and the we were very successful. The firstcourse, didnt work. Farmers began alcohol plant went the way of the Raft major program, which was for thecomplaining to DOE or asking for River geothermal project. Eventually, B u reau of Mines, proved to be the seedhepthe plant was dismantled and shipped that took off in many other deir c t i o n sl.to the Tennessee Valley A u t hor i ty . still working today. The Bureau was So DOE decided to build a reference i n t e rested in the biological por c e s s i n gstandard plant here in Idaho Falls. Because of the fuel alcohol plant, of ores, and the nations earliest workThe idea was for us to identify the though, the INEL hired its first bio- in this field began here. Microbes livekinds of operating criteria that the chemist and microbiologist. We off of the sulphur in some ores andbuyer of a plant should look for in acquired a p roduce sulfuricmaking a purchase. For example, one capability in acid, which dis -of the criteria had to do with how these fields that solves the metalmany gallons of alcohol per hour the we hadnt had and makes it pos -plant should produce, and another before, and sible to selectivelyrelated to the number of hours per these continued remove the metal.day that the plant could reasonably to grow and The technique isoperate.evolve. p a rticularly effec -tive with copperAfter we built and operated the plant Tony Allen o re s .according to the reference criteria, wefound that a plant that would actuallywork had to cost around $1 million.And the operator had to be prettysophisticated. The operation was, in The fuel alcohol plantfact, a chemical processing plant, and at the INEL Researchyou couldnt allow contamination to Center.INEEL 81-3504248'