The Kansas State University reactor is known as KSU TRIGA Mk II. 250 kWth first critical Oct 1962 max flux 4.6E12 (thermal), 7E12 (fast)
From: Adam McLean [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2003 9:00 PM
To: Canadian Nuclear Discussion List
Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] Students operate, manage nuclear reactor
Posted in the Kansas State eCollegian on March 6, 2003 and at:
"This job is less dangerous than a janitor's job"
Students operate, manage nuclear reactor
Campus job pays students well after extensive training, testing
Published on Thursday, March 6, 2003
Katy Bors, graduate student in nuclear engineering, takes samples from the
reactor core so its data can be measured. Bors has worked at the reactor for
Kansas State Collegian
Katy Bors and Walter McNeil are in charge of millions of dollars worth of
equipment every day.
Bors, graduate student in nuclear engineering, and McNeil, junior in
mechanical engineering, work at K-State's nuclear research and education
The nuclear reactor is used mainly to irradiate materials to do neutron
activation analysis, McNeil said. For example, if people wanted to find out
if there were contaminants in soil they wanted to use for planting, they
could bring it in and get it tested.
"When we make something radioactive, we measure the radiation that comes off
of it," he said. "That radiation is specific to the type of material that it
is, meaning we can tell you what's in an unknown material, down to the parts
McNeil said the reactor is safe to work on because it uses a special fuel
that will shut off the reactor if the temperature gets too high.
All the systems were built so that if something were to go wrong, the
reactor would shut down, said Mike Whaley, facility director and reactor
manager. Also, the reactor, which is 18 inches in diameter and 20 inches
tall, has about nine feet of concrete all the way around it so the radiation
doesn't get out, he said.
"We're extremely overdesigned for safety," Whaley said. "It has to be safe.
It was designed to be extremely safe."
At the reactor facility, there are many projects going on right now -- some
waiting for a student to continue working on them.
McNeil said he is working on a monochometer.
"It's a neutron beam splitter," he said. "It will be a big cement cylinder.
One beam of radiation will come in, and it will be split into three as it
comes out the back, making the beam less concentrated. People will even be
able to work with their hands in the beam."
All maintenance is done by students, Whaley said. McNeil is in charge of all
the mechanical, electrical and chemical maintenance.
Students are paid more than minimum wage, and for good reason, Bors said.
"Part of the reason students are paid so much is because we take care of all
the problems we have here," she said. "For instance, if we want to repaint,
we will do it ourselves."
K-State's program is a little different from others, Bors said. Some places
are very commercialized and have rigid schedules.
"In some places, if students are allowed to work, it is a graduate student
who has committed to one specific project.
"Here, we're very flexible. We have all-student operators, including our
manager, who is working on his Ph.D.," she said. "We know students are very
busy, so when we are scheduling training, we have to schedule around things,
which means that sometimes we are here in the evenings or on weekends."
The program is available for everyone, if people are willing to go through
the training and testing, Bors said.
"Students have to go through at least six months of training," she said.
"Then someone from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission comes from Washington,
D.C., to administer a two-day test consisting of three parts."
Despite many risks most people associate with nuclear technology, Whaley
said reactor operators have very safe jobs.
"This job is less dangerous than a janitor's job," Whaley said.
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