Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center Breazeale Nuclear Reactor
Breazeale Nuclear Reactor • It is licensed to operate up to 1 MW of thermal power • Over 35% of Pennsylvania’s power is produced by nuclear energy, however no electricity is created by the Breazeale reactor • It is the only research reactor in PA • It holds the oldest operating license in the USA • Approximately 3,000 people visit the reactor every year.
Energy Equivalents One uranium Fuel Pellet has as much energy as…. 3 Barrels of Oil (42 gallons each) 1 Ton of Coal 17,000 Cubic Feet of Natural Gas 2.5 Tons of Wood Science, Society and America’s Nuclear Waste
Mission of the RSEC • Education • Research • Service
Education • Student laboratories NUCE 450/451 use the reactor and radiation facilities • NUCE 497 - reactor operations course • Undergraduate student projects
Educational Outreach • PSU Classes • NucE, STS, Chemistry, IE • Other college courses • Juniata, Lock Haven, Pitt • Pre-college • Middle & High schools
Research Facilities • Neutron Beam Lab • Hot Cells • Gamma Irradiation • Neutron Activation Analysis
Neutron Radiography • Neutron beam from the reactor used to see inside of materials • Used to model water/steam flow, fuel Similar to X-ray technology: neutrons are used in the place of X-rays • Fuel cell research, determine lubricant location, detection of cracks in ceramics and detection of corrosion in aluminum components
Hot Cells Mechanical manipulators are used in the hot cells to work with radioactive materials.
Gamma Irradiation Facility This facility is used for student laboratories and for university research
Uses for Gamma radiation: • Food irradiation • Sterilization of medical equipment • Changes in material properties • Creation of different varieties of flowers • Inspect bridges, vessel welds and Statue Of Liberty.
Neutron Activation Analysis During irradiation, neutrons are captured by the target nucleus in the sample. The nucleus rids itself of the excess energy by emitting a prompt gamma ray. The resulting radioisotope can be identified with gamma radiation spectroscopy. Knowledge of the cross sections (probability of neutron capture), the reactor flux (number of neutrons) and irradiation time, allows quantification of isotopes originally present in the sample with parts per billion sensitivity. An incident neutron from the reactor is capture by the target nucleus. g The nucleus, which is in an excited state, emits a prompt gamma ray. The resulting radioisotope decays at a characteristic rate, leaving a stable nucleus. When it decays, the nucleus will emit a beta particle and a characteristic gamma ray which is measured with a gamma detection system. b g
Examples of Neutron Activation Analysis • Trace element analysis • Used for Forensic Investigation • Used in Dendrochronology research project • Used to determine authenticity and details of statues and other works of art • Used by anthropologists to study ancient trade routes
Service • Bombarding electronic materials with radiation from the reactor to improve their performance • Exposing materials and electronics to different types and doses of radiation to ensure they will work in outer space • Study of computer “soft-errors” caused by radiation • Producing radioactive materials • Na24 (14.95hr) • Br82 (35.3hr) • Ar41 (1.82hr)