CORVALLIS - A key Oregon representative will tour the Radiation Center at Oregon State University on April 11, as Congress is considering proposals to strengthen support of the nation's university research reactors.

Rep. Jim Bunn, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and its Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, will review the research and educational programs made possible by OSU's 1.1 megawatt TRIGA reactor.

Among other proposals to increase funding, Congress may soon consider the establishment of six or seven "centers of excellence" at universities with leading programs in radiation science and technology education, officials say.

"With facility upgrades and $1 million or more in ongoing annual support, these research reactor centers of excellence could make a huge difference to the scientific and technological future of the U.S.," said Brian Dodd, professor of nuclear engineering and director of the OSU Radiation Center.

If such programs are approved, Dodd said, OSU would make a concerted effort to become one of the centers of excellence and greatly expand its programs in radiation research, student education and technological support.

The small but highly useful research reactors at universities, he said, have widespread applications that make other forms of scientific research possible in physics, chemistry, biomedicine and other fields.

Research is already underway around the nation on radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat cancer, new high-tech materials for use in industry, and archaeological research to shed light on the distant past.

At OSU, the research reactor helps scientists conduct hundreds of experiments every year. They include:

  • Sophisticated neutron activation analysis has analyzed over 1,000 lunar rock samples
  • Forensic analysis for the FBI and other police agencies has helped solve more than 30 homicides in the Pacific Northwest
  • Study of deep sea core sediments is contributing to research on global climate change
  • Analysis of unusual anaerobic microbes from the digestive systems of animals may help create new technology to clean up oil spills

The OSU Radiation Center, Dodd said, is also home to a multi- million dollar new test facility that will help create the next generation of "passively safe" nuclear reactors to provide energy all over the world.

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Brian Dodd, 541-737-2344