Penn State hits 60-year mark in nuclear research

Pennsylvania State University (PSU) celebrated 60 years of nuclear research and its Breazeale Nuclear Reactor on Aug. 18.

The reactor is utilized in research for multiple fields including medicine, molecular make-up of ancient pottery and for commercial research including testing metals that could be used in fuel storage.

According to a report from PennLive, the university was one of the first in the U.S to conduct nuclear research. The nuclear reactor began as a part of the Atoms for Peace Project in 1955 which facilitated the research of peaceful uses of nuclear science and to halt its use in weapons programs. It eventually grew into a program that facilitated civilian research into nuclear science and its use as a source of energy.

Research conducted at the PSU facility was a key part in the mitigation efforts after the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor in 1979.

The major functioning portions of the reactor are housed under approximately 24 feet of water, which offers protection to the scientists and visitors to the facilities from nuclear radiation associated with its operation.

Senior reactor operator Paul Vernacchio said that the reactor is smaller than its counterparts used in nuclear power generation. He said the nuclear reactor remains similar to its original construction in 1955.

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