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Source: Jeff Geuther, 785-532-6657, geuther@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-1543, ebarcomb@k-state.edu

Friday, June 24, 2011

K-STATE'S RESEARCH NUCLEAR REACTOR FOUND TO HAVE NO FUEL DAMAGE AFTER FALSE ALARM

MANHATTAN -- The nuclear reactor used for research at Kansas State University was found to have no fuel damage after a monitoring instrument falsely reported an alarm.

Jeff Geuther, K-State's nuclear reactor facility manager, said that the instrument had been recently calibrated. It is believed that a problem with the calibration caused the false alarm.

To check, a portable air sampler was used to test for radiation levels on both sides of the reactor deck. Initial results from the portable air sampler indicated elevated radiation levels. However, the sample was taken near a table where radioactive materials are handled, Geuther said. The other side of the deck reported normal levels. Damaged fuel would have caused radiation levels to be elevated at both sides of the deck. 

Various other indications, such as reactor water activity and radiation levels in the facility, were normal. The event was reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  

The research reactor is a centerpiece for K-State's nuclear engineering program, which in 1958 was one of the first to become a separate department and in 1964 became the first program in the nation to gain accreditation. Undergraduates in the program get to do experiments involving the reactor, and many learn how to operate the reactor and become licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  

Faculty researchers use the reactor for diverse projects, from developing bomb-detection equipment that will aid in homeland security and testing new types of radiation detectors developed by the K-State SMART laboratories, to analyzing the chemical composition of Stone Age tools.