KSU nuclear reactor turns 50

By The Mercury

Since it was first powered up 50 years ago in Ward Hall, the nuclear reactor at Kansas State University has been helping the College of Engineering with four key objectives when it comes to nuclear engineering: education, research, outreach and training.

A closed ceremony Oct. 16 at the reactor, featuring current and past faculty members as well students and administrators, will be conducted in Ward Hall. It includes powering up the reactor at 8:27 p.m. — the same time it was first brought to power on Oct. 16, 1962.

The reactor is one of only 25 operating university research reactors in the nation, which gives the university an advantage in performing both nuclear research and training new nuclear engineers, said Jeff Geuther, manager of the university’s reactor.

Today the reactor is licensed to operate at up to 1250 kilowatts of thermal power, a significant increase from its first license, which only allowed it to operate at 100 kW of thermal power, Geuther said.

As the nuclear engineering field has changed, so has the program. Up until 1996 the nuclear engineering program was a separate department. But because of a nationwide decrease in nuclear engineering enrollment, the university merged the nuclear and mechanical engineering programs into the department of mechanical and nuclear engineering.

The move was made to preserve the nuclear program, which now enjoys a strong enrollment, Geuther said.

While around 2,000 people tour the reactor facility each year, it’s main focus remains on research and education.

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