The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) was the first reactor built in the U.S. for peacetime atomic research following World War II. Construction began in 1947 and the reactor started operating in August 1950. In the next 18 years, an estimated 25,000 scientific experiments were carried out at the BGRR using neutrons produced in the facility’s 700-ton graphite core, made up of more than 60,000 individual graphite blocks. The BGRR was placed on standby in 1968 and then permanently shut down as the next-generation reactor, the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR), was built next door to the BGRR with decommissioning activities at BGRR beginning in 1997.
During the BGRR’s operation, scientists worked at the facility to advance understanding of atomic nuclei, study the structures of solid materials, and investigate many physical, chemical and biological systems. The reactor also produced groundbreaking medical isotopes that are particularly useful in diagnosing and treating cancer and other diseases. Technetium-99m, a radioisotope that is currently used in more than 13 million medical procedures each year, came into widespread use as a result of its advancement at the BGRR as a key diagnostic tool.
On May 9 and 10, 2007 the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor Workshop was conducted with expert participants from within and external to DOE to discuss approaches to decommissioning graphite reactors and previous lessons learned in similar projects.