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RESEARCH AND UTILIZATION

The NRL has supported and contributed to many research projects through the years, such as closed-loop digital control of spacecraft and terrestrial reactors; boron neutron capture therapy for the treatment of cancer; material studies for the next generation of reactors; neutron activation analysis used for the study of autism; and the investigation of nanofluids for nuclear applications.

The NRL has one of the strongest materials and in-core loop programs in the country supporting research in the areas of advanced nuclear fuel and materials which are necessary for both existing and advanced power reactors. With rekindled national interest on the part of DOE and the nuclear industry in building the next-generation of nuclear power systems, many using novel materials and advanced forms of fuels, facilities such as the MITR-II are needed to test material and fuel behavior in a variety of radiation environments.

The MITR-II is arguably the best-suited university reactor for carrying out such studies because of its relatively high-power density (similar to a light water reactor), the capability to control chemistry and thermal conditions to reflect prototypic conditions, its easy-access geometric configuration, and space for up to three independent in-core irradiation tests.

Research and service areas supported by the MITR-II include:

  • Infrastructure to support the US initiative for designing and building the next generation of nuclear reactors as a means of reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Advanced materials and fuel research.
  • Trace element analysis, isotope production, and irradiation services.
  • Neutron transmutation doping of silicon.
  • Neutron scattering.
  • A fission converter facility is available. It has been used for clinical trials of Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT).. This facility is able to deliver an estimated therapeutic dose in just a few minutes.

Research is being conducted that supports conversion of the reactor to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel. Actual conversion of the MITR awaits successful safety testing and qualification of the fuel.