Nuclear Radiation Center


There is a wide array of services available at the Nuclear Radiation Center for researchers, including, but not limited to the services listed below. If your research can be furthered by any of the analyses that we can perform, or if you need another reactor service, please feel free to contact the facility staff, by email or by phone at (509) 335-8641.


     The radiation center is the home of a 1 MW nuclear reactor, which can be used for a wide array of neutron irradiation services, to include, but not limited to:

Neutron Activation Analysis

     Nondestructive Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) is a method used to determine elemental concentrations in unknown samples. It is especially useful for determining amounts of heavy metals (to parts per billion) in samples that are often as small as 10 mg. Examples of past research projects that have used this unique and valuable analysis method include determining quantities of toxic metals, such as arsenic, zinc, and selenium in air filters, tree rings, and other environmental samples.  NAA can also be used to find trace elements in biological materials. This can be especially useful in plant or animal nutrient and health studies. Argon dating of geological samples can even be performed using the reactor and associated NAA equipment.

Fission Track Analysis

     The reactor can be used as well to perform analysis of potentially fissionable materials  such as Uranium, Thorium and Plutonium, of quantities less than 8 mg. Fission Track  analysis can be used to determine quantities of these materials in both organic and mineral  samples. In the past, fission track has been used to study the amount of naturally-occurring  uranium in various rock formations.

Epithermal Neutron Beam

     The WSU TRIGA reactor has an external epithermal neutron beam facility. This beam is a well-collimated, high-flux, medium energy dry neutron beam. It can also be modified to generate low energy neutrons. This beam facility is enclosed in a special high-radiation area room, and was built in conjunction with the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory  for cancer research. Ongoing projects include Boron-Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) research, especially that research for a cure for brain tumors, although the beam can be used for any neutron-capture therapy. This beam can also be used for neutron radiography, a non-destructive technique for examining 'heavy' materials such as steel for internal 'light' materials, such as cracks in castings, voids in welds, or fluid flows inside pipes.

Isotope Production

     The reactor can also be used to manufacture radioisotopes for research, exploration, and damage-study. The reactor makes radioactive iridium for well-logging, Chromium-51 as a research tracer, and has been used for transmutation-doping of semiconductors. The reactor facility is also able to ship radioisotopes to authorized users across the nation.

WSUNRC Co-60 Irradiation Facility

     The Radiation Center also contains a 600 Ci gamma-irradiation facility. This gamma-irradiation source can be used for a wide array of research, including sterilizing cells, plasma, and other biological materials. It has also been used to mutate seeds, examine the radiation-protective effects of various compounds, and perform radiation-damage studies.

Alpha Spectrometry

   The WSUNRC maintains a series of alpha-particle spectrometers that can be used to determine quantities of the various isotopes of Uranium, Plutonium, Americium, and Thorium in most biological materials. Highly qualified staff are avalible to aid in the best use of these specialized detectors.

On-Site Radiochemistry Facilities

     The Center is equipped with all of the laboratory facilities and expertise needed for high-quality radiochemistry. Among our available resources are several 'wet' chemistry laboratories with fume hoods, a sample packaging lab that is used for trace-element analysis sample preparation, and technicians and scientists familiar with the techniques needed for radiochemical analysis. Also present are several radiation detection facilities including gamma spectrometers, liquid scintillation detectors, and alpha and beta detectors. The Center shares a building with the WSU Radiation Safety Office, facilitating material transfers to on-campus researchers, and the staff is fully trained in radioactive shipping procedures to facilitate off-campus transfers.

     Please feel free to contact Radiation Center Staff if you have any questions about the services we offer.

     We always look forward to new and even unusual projects, and will do whatever we can to accommodate your project and help you advance your research.



The Reactor Core defueled in the fall of 2003



The Reactor at Full Power (1.0 MW)



See a video of the Reactor Pulsing to ~1.2 GW


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Nuclear Radiation Center, PO Box 641300, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1300, 509-335-8641, Contact Us