Skip to main content

No Need to Fret About UT-Austin's TRIGA Reactor, No Matter What Drudge Might Point To

A Mark II TRIGA reactor at KSU.
A lot of folks around the country are dealing with jangled nerves after the campuses at UT-Austin and North Dakota State were evacuated in the wake of vague threats of terrorist attack. Thankfully, the threats appear to have been a hoax.

When news breaks, the number one guy on the Web who wants to influence where the clicks go is Matt Drudge, chief cook and bottle washer at the Drudge Report. If you pop over to Drudge right now, you'll see all the screaming headlines, with just one in particular catching my eye:

Nuke Reactor Evacuated in Austin...

The first thing to keep in mind is that the reactor in Austin is on campus at UT, and it's a TRIGA Mark II Research Reactor that was constructed by General Atomics. The reactor was designed to be, in the words of Frederic de Hoffman, "safe even in the hands of a young student." The TRIGA Mark II generally operates between just 0.1 to 16 MWTh. By way of comparison, the average commercial nuclear reactor clocks in at about 1,000 MWe.

Some of our readers might recall how ABC News attempted to generate a cloud of FUD over the potential for terrorists to penetrate the security around research reactors, reasoning that the nuclear fuel could be removed to construct a dirty bomb, even though there isn't anywhere near enough fuel in the reactor to make that happen.

In other words, there's nothing to see here, though I'm sure Mr. Drudge's advertisers are happy that you stopped by.

UPDATE: I just got a short note from NEI Nuclear Notes reader, Art Wharton:

UT had its first TRIGA Mark I reactor in the basement of Taylor Hall(commissioned in the 60's), on main campus. It was decommissioned when the TRIGA Mark II reactor was built up on the JJ Pickle Research Campus ~ 10-15 miles north of main campus. Critical in 1992, it is the newest of all University reactors in the USA, including digital controls and a nice flat-screen display of the rod positions, proudly displaying a Longhorn logo background.

Hook 'em horns.

Comments

jim said…
Again, the nuclear community sorely needs a joint-venture "911" media correction FUD-busting response team to jump and set such nuclear-related reports by Drudge or ABC or whoever straight. Greenpeace seems to have no problem picking up the Bat-phone to major networks to feature on beached polar bears, and the far more cerebral and professional nuclear community should be no less adept at PR and biased media damage control.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…