Reed College is the only undergraduate liberal arts college in the world with a nuclear reactor. The Reed reactor is also unique in that it is run almost entirely by undergraduate students, and it has more women operators than all the other research reactors combined. From its beginning in 1968, the reactor, a 250 kW TRIGA Mark I research reactor, has been used for faculty and student research, operator training, and class instruction. The reactor is primarily used as an analytical tool to determine the quantity of trace elements in samples through neutron activation analysis. It has been used in fields such as art history, environmental chemistry, and criminal forensics. The reactor also produces radioactive isotopes for experiments. Under the supervision of a licensed operator--usually a fellow student--students may use the reactor for their own research projects. A non-credit reactor seminar is available to any student who wishes to learn about the reactor, nuclear power, or radioactive materials. Students in all majors are encouraged to join the seminar. Those who wish to operate the reactor may continue to study and apply for a license examination given by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. With a reactor operator's license, the student joins a select group of undergraduate licensed operators. The experience can be valuable in a variety of fields including theoretical reactor physics, nuclear engineering, and nuclear medicine.
(last modified: November 10, 2017)