The UCI Nuclear Reactor Facility is part of the Chemistry Department, of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and was installed in 1968, first brought to criticality in 1969. As a Mark I TRIGA type capable of 250 kW steady state operation and pulses of up to 1000 MW, the reactor is primarily used for neutron activation analysis, which can determine the elemental composition of samples non-destructively for up to 74 different elements. This technique is applied to characterize any number of systems, such as spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, oil and gas refinery efficiency, and detection of uranium and thorium in the environment.
The reactor is fueled by uranium, enriched to less than 20% of the 235 isotope, and moderated by water and zirconium hydride, giving it extremely safe operating characteristics. With the hydride incorporated into the fuel itself, the risk of catastrophic failure due to meltdown of the reactor is effectively completely mitigated, making the TRIGA reactor an ideal training and research platform.
Current work for the facility includes optimization of lanthanide and actinide separations in spent nuclear fuel, prototype medical isotope production techniques, training potential reactor operators, and teaching courses in radiochemistry and nuclear instrumentation.
The facility is equipped with several support systems to aid in the research mission of the facility, such as gamma ray spectrometers, neutron sources, and a fully equipped radiochemistry laboratory.
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