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Rare nuclear reactor at ISU gets big upgrade

New Nuclear Operating Console OCT 2020
Jordon Beesley/Idaho State University Manning the new reactor operating console, replacing the more than 50 year-old previous version, Idaho State University graduate student Kofi Tuffor-Achamong, right, and senior Spencer Ercanbrack are two of many students to work with the AGN-201 Nuclear Reactor since it was donated to ISU in 1965. The reactor is one of five that are still operating in the world.

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Idaho State University is celebrating a big upgrade to their incredibly rare nuclear reactor.

The ISU Department of Nuclear Engineering is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday for a new operating console for the research and training nuclear reactor.

The reactor, donated to ISU by the Idaho National Laboratory in 1965, is one of five that are still operating in the world.

It's not used for creating electricity--it's meant to educate students on the safe operation of a nuclear reactor, the theory of radiation, radiation safety, fission and more.

Students who have gone through a rigorous course and passed the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission exam are able to practice hands-on with the nuclear reactor.

The new operating console will sustain the reactor for another 50 years, said Chad Pope, Department of Nuclear Engineering chair and professor. 

“By getting this upgrade in place it really makes the ISU nuclear engineering program here for the long haul. The INL is not going anywhere and we are not going anywhere. We are built for the long term," Pope said.

The Aerojet-General Nucleonics nuclear reactor, commonly known as AGN-201, only admits 5 watts of thermal energy and is surrounded by several layers of shields, so it's safe for students to work with.

The new operating console was a 15-year long process, which many in the department contributed to. Several people are being honored as part of Nuclear Science Week at the University.

KIFI/KIDK will be touring the reactor Tuesday, and will have an update on the evening news.

Education / Idaho / Local News / News / Pocatello / Top Stories
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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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