Penn State College Of Engineering To Expand On-Campus Nuclear Reactor

The College of Engineering has partnered with Penn State’s Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC) and the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering to add an expansion on the on-campus Breazeale Reactor.

The Breazeale Reactor generates an immense amount of neutrons and allows researchers to see how these neutrons interact with other materials. This machine also aids in the expansion of nuclear engineering as a whole. The reactor will be open to Penn State faculty and students.

Since its founding in 1955, the reactor has undergone a series of renovations, the biggest being in 2018. Today, the Breazeale Reactor remains the oldest operating reactor in the country.

“A significant redesign and installation of five new beam ports was completed in 2018, but we needed a new and expanded neutron beam hall to make full use of the reactor’s capabilities and to establish state-of-the-art neutron beam facilities,” said Kenan Unlu, the director of RSEC and professor of nuclear engineering.

The university announced the expansion in July after receiving a $9.8 million donation to fund the building and the equipment.

The ground-breaking ceremony was held in October, and the construction is set to be completed in the spring semester.

“The education and research mission of the nuclear engineering department and RSEC have enjoyed a strategic partnership for many decades in the College of Engineering,” said Jean Paul Allain, head of nuclear engineering. “Strengthening already close ties, the college is making a significant investment in both the department of nuclear engineering and RSEC.”

One of the ports will also be fitted with a Small-Angle Neutron Scattering, known as SANS, instrument. The instrument was donated from Berlin, Germany, and will be installed when the construction is completed in the spring of 2022.

With the installation of the addition, Penn State will be the only university with a SANS reactor in the United States.

In the final steps of the process, Penn State elected Robert Dimeo, director of the National Institue of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research, as the first Penn State Neutron Science Advisory Council chairman.

“This facility provides opportunities to expand research capabilities across Penn State and to help support operations for the scientific community across the United States,” Dimeo said.

Starting this spring, the College of Engineering, the Eberly College of Science, and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will all be able to utilize the reactor in their research.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a senior staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs in Beaver Stadium. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected].

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