Learn nuclear kung-fu at OSU with a real reactor


regon State University has had a nuclear reactor for quite some time—since 1967—and continues to improve it so students can use it as a real-life learning tool. If you take chemistry, geosciences, atmospheric sciences or just about any of the engineering schools OSU offers, you’re likely to come into contact with it at some point.

The OSU reactor looks kind of like a prison. That's to keep all the awesome in.

And the reactor shows no signs of powering down, either. Just recently, OSU got awarded $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.  The money is divvied up like this:

  • $871,119 for experiments to enhance the safety and efficiency of small modular reactors.
  • $245,402 for laboratory and equipment upgrades.
  • $45,000 in scholarships for students seeking a nuclear-related degree.

Image of a reactor core at OSU. That blue glow comes from the Uranium Zirconium Hydride fuel, which is safe because it gets less conductive as it heats up (meaning meltdowns are basically impossible)

That last one means you can get a piece of the award for yourself, if you have an interest in nuclear science.

Nuclear power has gotten a lot of criticism lately for its dangers, thanks in part to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. But for the most part it’s quite safe if everything is handled properly. And that’s just fission, which is breaking heavy atoms apart.

Much safer and more promising is nuclear fusion, which is sticking light atoms together. Fusion is very possibly the future of nuclear energy, and so when you take nuclear engineering at OSU, you will learn a lot about both fusion and fission.

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