Reed College : The Reed Research Reactor
– How much electricity does the reactor make?
The Reed reactor doesn’t produce any electricity. To do that we would need to boil water to make steam and drive a turbine generator. Our pool water doesn’t heat up enough to boil, so we can’t make electricity.

– What do you do with your radioactive waste?
Most of the radioactive material we make has such a short half-life that we can just let it decay for a few months and discard it. It takes us about 5 years to fill up a standard 55 gallon drum with the long lived waste products. We send the drum to a licensed low level radioactive waste site in Richland, Washington.

– What do you do with your spent fuel?
We still have all the fuel we have ever had. We have never had to ship any spent fuel. Of the 2500 grams of uranium-235 that we started with in 1968, only 60 grams have been used.

– Is it true that you let students run the reactor?
We rely on students to run the reactor. Reed students do most of the work at the reactor from designing and running new experiments to routine maintenance.

– How much radiation do your students get?
As radiation workers they are limited to 5 mSv per year. The most that any student has ever received is 0.8 mSv in a year. Normal background radiation is about 3,6 mSv per year.

– How much plutonium do you have? How dangerous is it?
We have a small amount of plutonium as sources and produced in our fuel. Plutonium is an alpha emitter, so it poses no threat at all outside the body. If it were vaporized into just the right aeresol and inhaled, it could increase the chances of lung cancer after a few decades. It is much less dangerous than other materials that we use everyday. It is not even close to being the deadliest element on earth