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A New Type of Research Reactor: IAEA Assists Universities in Setting-up "Remote Reactor" Programme

1 November 2010 | There are more than 250 research reactors in the world, and they come in every conceivable shape and size. But now the US's North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) are pioneering a new reactor type: one that isn't really there.

Remote Reactor

PULSTAR Control Room at North Carolina State University
(Photo: NCSU)

NCSU and JUST commenced the first international "remote reactor" programme at the end of September, and will continue collaboration throughout the academic year. The IAEA's Research Reactor Section assisted both universities with the programme's set-up, which was funded through an extrabudgetary contribution from the United States.

The "remote reactor" is created through an internet link from NCSU's PULSTAR research reactor. Signals from the reactor are sent to a laboratory half-way around the world to JUST, where students in a senior-level reactor course are able to see the same live displays that the PULSTAR's operators see. Using video conference equipment, the students are able to interact with operators and instructors in North Carolina to learn about research reactor operations; they can also conduct experiments by asking the North Carolina operators to change settings, and then seeing how the real-time reactor displays change accordingly.

Alex Burkart, the Deputy Director of the US State Department's Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security and one of the project's originators, said that the launch of the remote reactor, "is an important step in distance learning, one of the areas that [the 2010] IAEA General Conference requested the Director General to pursue in order to make nuclear knowledge more broadly available in an effective and efficient manner."

IAEA Research Reactor Section Head Pablo Adelfang added, "The 'remote reactor' programme is a cost-effective way to train groups of students in reactor operations, and can help states train and evaluate their human capital needs for ensuing reactor projects." The IAEA is exploring possibilities for expanding the "remote reactor" programme into other regions.

For more information, contact the Research Reactor Section at research.reactors@iaea.org