Friday, October 14, 2005

Why We Need Research Reactors

In ABC's capsule review of its visit to Reed College, the network went all the way to Austria to find a source to bash research reactors and the folks who use them:

Nuclear security experts say that many universities no longer need their research reactors. "I think it's a prestige subject that no scientist really wants to part with one of his wonderful toys. And a research reactor is in fact a wonderful toy as such," said Fritz Steinhausler, professor of Physics and Biophysics at the University of Salzburg in Austria.
Over at the ABC News message board, Carl Willis, a graduate student in the nuclear engineering program at Ohio State thinks a little differently:
People who watched this primetime expose will come away with the impression that all our research reactors are good for is the color-enhancement of topaz. I encourage anyone to set up a tour of their local university reactor and learn first-hand what that reactor is doing, since one apparently cannot get an honest description on television. Fundamentally, research reactors are valuable as sources of neutrons for a myriad of basic and applied research in biology, materials science, physics, environmental and geochemistry, medicine, and many other fields. They are the most prolific and reliable sources of neutrons we have, and are NOT an obsolete technology. Security is obviously important at reactors. But if an irrational, fear-inspired regulatory structure makes reactors an impossibility, we will lose the technology and the neutrons and start crawling back into the dark cave.
And that's part of what this report is really about -- shutting down legitimate scientific research in the pursuit of a narrow-minded agenda.

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