Every year, The Nuclear Reactor Program trains select N.C. State students to take the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission examination to become federally licensed PULSTAR Nuclear Reactor Operators. As of Fall 2013, the NRP has two licensed student operators, and two students officially in training to take the NRC Reactor Operator Examination scheduled for April 2014.
Students wanting more information about operations training opportunities and the federal licensing process at NC State can find details here. Please contact the reactor staff if you are interested in learning more.
During the week of October 29th, 2012, the "International Workshop on Secure Operations and Applications at Research Reactors" was held at the Nuclear Reactor Program of North Carolina State University (NCSU). The event was sponsored by the "Partnership for Nuclear Security" program under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State, and in coordination with Sandia National Laboratory. In addition, the US Department of Energy (National Nuclear Security Administration), the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the International Atomic Energy Agency participated in the workshop. Officials and scientists from nuclear facilities in five different countries (including the US) took part in activities that included laboratory sessions at the PULSTAR Nuclear Research Reactor Facility on NCSU's north campus. The participants received instruction from reactor facility staff concerning reactor operations, control rod calibration, neutron imaging, and neutron activation analysis. Other topics covered in lectures throughout the week included nuclear security and non-proliferation, strategic planning and enhancing the utilization of research reactors.
After nearly 6 years of design and fabrication work, the initial cool down of the PULSTAR Ultra Cold Neutron Source cryostat took place on January 6, 2012. This first round of cryogenic testing used liquid nitrogen to cool each of the cooling loops to 70K. All cryogenic, instrumentation, and vacuum system components were checked, and the thermal properties of the system were analyzed.
All systems performed as expected, so the UCN team is currently planning for the next round of cooling tests using liquid helium scheduled for Fall 2013.
The Positron – the antimatter of an electron – has been used as a probe to study defect properties for many years. Because positrons are naturally trapped in vacancies of normal materials, from the e+-e- annihilation photons, specific void information can be extracted of the target. Being non-destructive and quantitative, positron spectroscopy has unique advantages over traditional intrusive and microscopic techniques. In addition, by moderating the positrons, one can utilize low-energy positron beam to examine very thin films. The NC State Intense Positron Beam facility provides both bulk and beam positron spectroscopy capabilities that are suitable for bulk and thin film (as thin as 20nm) measurements.
In July 2010, the US Department of Energy announced that it was funding a $1.38 million NC State Univ. proposal to "Upgrade of the Power of the PULSTAR Reactor from 1-MWth in Support of Nuclear Engineering Education and Research." See list of awards here.
The 1-MW PULSTAR Research Reactor is the fourth nuclear fission reactor at NC State, going critical in September 1972. For almost 40 years, the PULSTAR reactor has been harnessing the power of the atom to furthur its mission of education, training, research, and service. Click the following links for more information about the reactor, the reseach activities carried out at its user facilities, the opportunities for distance learning, and the analytical and irradiation services available.
Internet Reactor Labs are available to external academic institutions who wish to utilize the PULSTAR in demostrating nuclear reactor operations and kinetics for their students. This capability enriches academic programs at universities without research reactors of their own, and may be used to expand the educational opportunities for nuclear engineering students throughout the United States and internationally.
In 2007, the NC State Intense Positron Beam facility broke a record for having the world's most intense positron source. Since that time, the facility has continued work on the development of two positron lifetime spectrometers. See the Oct. 2007 Science Daily story.
The PULSTAR Reactor has several User Facilities which are available for use by research groups internal and external to the UNC system. Each of these facilities harnesses the intense radiation fields eminating from the reactor beamports to create unique research and non-destructive diagnostic instruments.
Facilities available include:
The history of the Nuclear Reactor Program at North Carolina State University goes back to 1950 and the contruction of the 'R-1' reactor, the first academic research reactor in the world.
Since then, an additional three reactors have been built at three different sites on the NC State campus; R-2 & R-3 in the original 'south' Burlington Lab, R-4 in the Bureau of Mines building, and the 1-MW PULSTAR adjacent to 'north' Burlington Lab.