Nuclear radiation center open to view

It was quiet except for the erratic beeping of small beige Geiger detectors as Donald Wall led us down narrow white hallways to the 25-foot-deep concrete pool that houses the WSU nuclear fission reactor.
 
With the uranium glowing light blue at the bottom of the pool, the heated distilled water looked as peaceful and inviting as a tropical lagoon.
 
“We have a key to turn it on,” said a nonchalant Wall, director of the WSU Nuclear Radiation Center (NRC).
 
So much for nuclear trepidation. After a tour, people come away quite convinced of Wall’s frequently repeated points about the reactor — it is safe and it produces clean energy.
 
They also learn quite a bit about the commercial ventures of the NRC and the way it contributes to the mission of the university. For example, Wall said WSU produces almost the entire world supply of iridium-192 — an element used during gas and oil drilling. The center also is
involved in national security work to support nuclear nonproliferation.
 
In addition, the NRC provides radiochemistry laboratories and services for faculty researchers. Wall also teaches an undergraduate class in nuclear reactor operations.
 
“It gives the students an opportunity to see applied uses of uranium,” he said. “At the end of the class, students are prepared to take the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Licensing examination to become licensed nuclear reactor operators.”
 
The NRC is open for tours and Wall is available to speak at area schools. For more information, call 335-8641 or visit www.wsu.edu/nrc.
Uranium glows light blue in the bottom of the pool, right, in WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center  (Photos by Becky Phillips, WSU Today)

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