Eliot Circular

Reactor Gets New Director

Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Melinda Krahenbuhl glows with anticipation.

By Randall S. Barton

When Melinda Krahenbuhl laid eyes on a nuclear reactor, it was a case of love at first sight.

“I stood over the top of it and saw the blue glow,” she remembers. “It’s mind-boggling to be in the presence of something with such power. It was such an intense, blue, beautiful, and ethereal experience. I was sold.”

Krahenbuhl, who has a PhD in chemical/nuclear engineering from the University of Utah, took over as director of the research reactor at Reed in June. She is responsible for facilitating student research, interacting with the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and keeping the reactor in compliance. She served as director of the reactor at UU for three years before becoming a researcher at Dow Chemical in June 2008.

“At Dow Chemical I realized how much I missed education in general,” she says. “The enthusiasm that students have about life makes a huge difference in your life.”

Krahenbuhl says Reed has always been known as having the best training program.

“At other colleges and universities they license four or five students a year,” she says. “We have 40 licensed operators on staff at Reed. Because the school is so unique, students can combine it with other disciplines that these big universities don’t see. The students here come up with some very interesting ideas about how to use it.”

Krahenbuhl is as passionate about nuclear education as she is about the blue glow (known to cognoscenti as Čerenkov radiation). “We can’t afford to give up nuclear education in the United States, particularly if we want to be the nuclear police. If you don’t have any programs you don’t have credibility. You need to have an educated society to make decisions about the future, and nuclear is going to be playing a role, whether in security, power, or research. It’s not going away.”