Frequently Asked Questions

How much power does the MUTR produce?

The reactor produces 250 kilowatts of heat, about as much as a car, or about 1/10,00oth the power of a nuclear power plant.

How much electricity does the reactor make?

The MUTR doesn’t produce any electricity; the reactor is too low in power, and its operating schedule is too intermittent to make it worth while.

Then why do you have a reactor?

Nuclear reactors are good sources of neutrons for use in experiments.

What good are neutrons?

Neutrons have a wide variety of uses. They can be used to produce radioisotopes for medical treatments, materials science and chemistry research, as well as developing technologies for new nuclear reactors.

What do you do with your spent fuel?

The reactor is still using its original fuel loading from 45 years ago and less than 2% of that has been used. When the reactor is finished with the fuel the Department of Energy will take possession of it and be responsible its long term storage.

What are the chances of the reactor melting down?

The MUTR can’t melt down even if all of the water were to drain from the pool. The reactor power is low, and the characteristics of TRIGA fuel sufficient to ensure that it is safe.

What would happen if I fell in the pool?

Not much. The reactor pool is kept very clean and the primary effect would be that you would make the pool dirtier. Even if you were to fall in while the reactor was operating there would be sufficient water to shield you from dangerous levels of radiation.

What is the worst accident that could happen?

The worst hypothetical accident is analyzed as part of the license and involves breaking open a fuel element outside of the pool. In the event of this happening effects would be localized to the reactor room and would not have negative effects outside the building.

Is it true that you let students run the reactor?

Yes! Students can become licensed after a year long training program and an exam from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

How does a student get a license?

See our Reactor Operator Training page.

Why would someone want to get a license?

The license is only valid at the MUTR so it can’t be used anywhere else. Students choose to get a license because they want the experience and may never have this chance again. Some just because they think it’s cool!

What kind of students get a license at the MUTR?

Most students are science majors — Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics. But the program is open to students of all disciplines.

How many reactors are there in the United States?

There are 98 power reactors used to make electricity. There are 30 NRC licensed research reactors.

How can I arrange a tour of the reactor?

We offer tours and educational programs for schools and educational organizations all the time. Just fill out a Tour Request Form.

Can I use the reactor for an experiment?

We’re always looking for experiments for the reactor. Contact us at radiation@umd.edu if you are interested in using the Facilities.