WASHINGTON, DC – The University of Maryland will continue operating its Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics – or TRIGA – research reactor thanks to lightly irradiated fuel provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) site in Idaho. In operation since 1973, the University’s 250-kilowatt research reactor has trained scores of young researchers who are interested in nuclear energy, but was facing the possibility of shutting down due to a lack of available fuel in the commercial market.
With the inventory of this type of fuel growing scarce, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) designed a new policy initiative to fill urgent domestic TRIGA fuel needs by reusing fuel in DOE’s inventory that has only been used previously in a TRIGA reactor for a short time and thus still contains most of its fission energy. Now formally sanctioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the initiative aims to keep these reactors operating.
“This partnership between DOE and the University will enable students to continue their education in nuclear energy while also putting an existing fuel source to good use,” said Raymond Furstenau, DOE’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.
“Currently, it is not possible to obtain new TRIGA fuel and a source isn’t expected to become available until approximately 2020,” said Douglas Morrell, INL fuel manager for the DOE-NE Research Reactor Infrastructure Program. “We were grateful for the opportunity to support the University’s research program while also reducing our inventory of lightly irradiated fuel in Idaho.”
Through a collaborative effort by DOE-NE, DOE-Environmental Management, NRC, Battelle Energy Alliance , Fluor Idaho, and the University of Maryland, the fuel that has been stored at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, was retrieved, packaged and delivered to College Park, Maryland, on March 20. This will be the first of several shipments to different TRIGA reactor facilities that is expected to take place as part of this new policy initiative.
TRIGA reactors are designed for use by scientific institutions and universities for purposes such as undergraduate and graduate education, commercial research, nondestructive testing and isotope production. Several TRIGA reactor facilities are located at universities, private industry and government installations.