Friday, September 14, 2012

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.

1 comment:

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