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The MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (NRL) is an interdepartmental center that operates a 6 MW research reactor. NRL has a distinguished history of providing faculty and students from MIT and other institutions with a state-of-the-art neutron source as well as a highly efficient and well-organized infrastructure to facilitate its use.
NRL is equipped with a wide variety of sample irradiation facilities, with fast and slow neutron fluxes up to 1014 and 5x1013 per cm2 per second; temperature-controlled in-pile facilities, a neutron diffractometer; and a fission converter facility. In-pile loops that closely simulate the environment in light water power reactors are available for corrosion and irradiation damage testing. An in-pile high-temperature irradiation facility for advanced materials studies has been successfully demonstrated to operate up to 1500 ºC. An excellent medical irradiation facility with a clinically useful epithermal beam is available for patient and animal irradiations.
Other experimental facilities and instrumentation include radiochemistry laboratories; hot cells for dismantling or testing; a shielded hot box for handling and nondestructive testing of radioactive materials; nuclear detection equipment; delayed and prompt gamma activation analysis facilities; an inductively coupled plasma spectrometer (ICP-OES); and a materials characterization laboratory. A thermal hydraulic lab was established with the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department to study heat transfer properties of nanofluids for nuclear reactor and other thermal management applications.
Current research topics include applications of nuclear trace analysis to problems in the physical and engineering sciences, life sciences, geosciences, and the environment; radiation effects on materials; advanced fuels irradiation; dose and corrosion reduction in power reactors; reactor engineering; instrumentation for neutron detection; nuclear medicine; and isotope production.
Undergraduates can be involved in the operation of the reactor by completing the reactor operator training program, which can lead to being employed part-time by the NRL as an NRC-licensed reactor operator, and/or utilize the reactor in research activities through special projects or senior theses. In addition, graduate thesis research can be carried on in the various research areas mentioned above.
A current summary report describing NRL activities in greater detail is available. For information, inquire at the office of the director, Dr. David E. Moncton, Room NW12-204, 617-253-8883.