Reed Research Reactor

About the Reactor

The Reed Research Reactor was established in 1968 and is the only reactor operated primarily by undergraduates. At any given time, there are approximately 40 students licensed to operate the Reed reactor. In addition to operating the reactor, many students serve as senior staff and in supervisory positions.

Much of the work performed at the Reed reactor is in collaboration with external research groups. We are certified by the State of Oregon to perform radiation meter calibrations.

See our reactor FAQ for more information.

Introduction | Uses | History ]


The Reed College Reactor Facility has been used for research and educational projects in the Portland area since its establishment in 1968. These programs have been an important part of the educational picture of the region.

glow The Reed College Reactor is a TRIGA Mark I reactor at the bottom of a 25-foot-deep tank. It uses zirconium hydride/uranium hydride fuel elements in a circular grid array. The uranium fuel is enriched to 20% uranium-235. The reactor is surrounded by a graphite ring which minimizes neutron leakage by reflecting neutrons back into the core.

The reactor can operate at any power up to the license ceiling of 250 kW. This makes it possible to provide a defined neutron flux as required for some experiments. The power level is usually maintained for periods ranging from a few minutes up to eight hours. Continued or repeated operation over several days is possible for longer irradiations.

Introduction | Uses | History ]

Reactor Uses

Chloe The Reed Reactor Facility is primarily used for instruction, research, and analysis, especially trace-element analysis. Since the initial startup, the reactor has worked to educate the surrounding community on the principles of nuclear engineering and energy and provided student research opportunities.

The reactor and associated facilities are used to some extent in chemistry and physics courses, but they are mostly used for research projects. The reactor is operated almost entirely by undergraduate students who are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This allows them to conduct their own research and to be hired by the facility to conduct irradiations for educational organizations, private research organizations, and for industrial applications. A one year non-credit seminar is open to all interested students to prepare them for the licensing examination. Students and faculty from other institutions are also welcome to attend the seminar, although they are not eligible to be licensed.

The facility provides tours and labs for middle school, high school, and college classes as well as other special groups in the Portland area. Each summer, the reactor hosts two high school interns through Saturday Academy's ASE internship program

Conwit Research at the Reed Reactor has centered around quantitative neutron activation analysis for trace-element concentrations using a multi-channel analyzer and an intrinsic germanium gamma-ray spectrometer. A major research area for students using the reactor is the determination of trace-element concentrations in biological and environmental samples. More examples are included in the page on neutron activation analysis.

The reactor facility is available as a neutron source for industrial applications. The most frequent use in the past has been for quality control and purity testing in manufacturing and electronics industries, and for environmental monitoring of industrial effluents. In addition, the reactor provides meter calibration services for local fire departments, companies, and individuals with radiation detectors. 

Introduction | Uses | History ]

Reactor History

Introduction | Uses | History ]