Nuclear and Renewable Energy in Idaho and the American West

Aya is working on a two part project focusing on non-fossil fuel energy in the American West and its human and environmental impacts. She is studying communities and landscapes surrounding nuclear energy testing, research, and waste storage in the Snake River Plain of Idaho. Since 1949, southeastern Idaho has been the U.S.’ center of nuclear energy research, including the home of the first nuclear reactor that produced electricity, the first nuclear submarines, and much more. The area has also been the host of waste storage for much of the Cold War nuclear complex, which has resulted in some radioactive spills and releases. Aya’s summer research also includes an internship at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado where she is designing a mechanism for a tidal turbine, which generates energy from tidal or river currents. Together, she is interested in impacts of scientific communities and facilities and their interactions with local, Indigenous, and other communities in the West, ultimately to shed light onto how we can best steward these areas and benefit nearby communities.


Aya Ochiai, Western Resource Fellow | Aya Ochiai is a student in Yale college majoring in mechanical engineering and environmental studies, concentrating in energy and its human and environmental impacts. She grew up in the Skagit Valley (i.e. not Seattle) of Washington State, between the beautiful Puget Sound and the North Cascade Mountains. She is passionate about industrial and nuclear history especially in the American West, as well as the importance of local, place-based knowledge systems. In her free time, Aya enjoys playing ukulele, dancing, and woodworking/metalworking. You can reach Aya at  See what Aya has been up to.   |  Blog