In 1961, the Joint Congressional Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) approved Dairyland Power Cooperative's proposal to construct and operate Wisconsin's first nuclear-fueled power plant. This reactor was part of a pilot program to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of nuclear reactors for rural electric cooperatives and small utilities.
The Allis-Chalmers Company of West Allis began constructing the La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor in 1963.
On July 11, 1967, at 7:39 p.m., the reactor achieved its first sustained chain reaction, ushering both Wisconsin and cooperative electrification into the nuclear age. The reactor attained full-powered operation on August 1, 1969. After several modifications and tests, inspectors declared the reactor commercially operational on February 1, 1971, with a rated capacity of 50 megawatts.
Dairyland acquired full ownership of the facility from the AEC in August 1973, but ceased reactor operations on April 30, 1987, due to economic conditions. Dairyland currently operates a coal-fired power plant on this site.