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The White Cloud Rising From Idaho National Lab Was Not Smoke

Eman Hillis Eman Hillis
24th September 2023
The White Cloud Rising From Idaho National Lab Was Not Smoke
The video shows natural steam over Idaho National Laboratory (X)

The Claim

A cloud of smoke rose over Idaho National Lab.

Emerging story

Recently, social media users shared pictures of an alleged smoke coming out from the chimney stacks of Idaho National Lab (INL), which tests advanced nuclear energy. Claims alleged that the smoke could be because of a fire.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar investigated the circulated claim and found it to be misleading. 

The smoke in the photo is just a natural steam and some of the photos that were shared with the claim are outdated.

There Was No Smoke, But Natural Steam

After the panic that spread on social media due to the claims, Idaho National Laboratory confirmed that there was no fire and no emergency in the laboratory.

Idaho National Laboratory shared an announcement on Facebook stating that there is no fire on Idaho National Laboratory’s desert Site. “Regarding recent erroneous reporting from media outlets – some that included outdated photos from 2019 – there is currently no fire and no emergency on Idaho National Laboratory’s desert Site.”

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Furthermore, the plumes of white smoke have been confirmed to be steam that is naturally generated during the normal operation of nuclear power plants. “I have confirmed with our INL Fire Department that there is currently no emergency and no fire on the INL site. This is not an unusual occurrence – it’s what reactors do – make steam,” said Sarah Nuemann, a media relations manager at the venerable operation, to Daily Mail.

What Causes Steam?

The steam is caused by the heat produced through fission, a physical process called fission. The steam then turns an electric generator to produce electricity. According to the Department of Energy, “Nuclear reactors are the heart of a nuclear power plant. They contain and control nuclear chain reactions that produce heat through a physical process called fission. That heat is used to make steam that spins a turbine to create electricity.”

The X account of Idaho National Laboratory posted a tutorial video explaining the steam and its causes on September 22, refuting the claims.

What Is Idaho National Laboratory?

Idaho National Laboratory defines itself as a house of “an exceptional array of scientific expertise, equipment, and vision to help shape extraordinary new technologies into practical, everyday uses.” INL is federally funded and is located in the southeastern Idaho desert.

The lab was created in February 2005 by combining INL’s predecessors, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory-West. The lab is now the leading center of nuclear energy research and development in the U.S., where there are thousands of researchers and scientists.

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