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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Building 7900 - High Flux Isotope Reactor

Building 7900 houses the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), a beryllium-reflected, light-water-cooled and moderated, flux trap reactor that uses highly-enriched U-235 as fuel. It is primarily used for neutron physics research, using neutron-scattering experiments to reveal the structure and dynamics of materials. It is also used for medical, industrial, and research isotope production; research on neutron damage to materials; and neutron activation to detect trace elements in the environment. HFIR's original primary purpose and a continuing mission is the production of californium-252 and other transuranium isotopes. The HFIR is the western world's only supplier of californium-252, which is used in cancer therapy and detecting pollutants in the environment and explosives.

HFIR is the highest flux reactor-based source of neutrons for condensed matter research in the United States. The 85-megawatt HFIR provides a steady-state neutron flux. It produces thermal and cold neutrons, generating an intense neutron flux, constant power density, and constant-length fuel cycles, which are used for neutron scattering research of condensed matter properties.

A fuel storage pool in the reactor facility contains a large inventory of spent fuel from past reactor operations. The storage racks were modified in the 1990s to increase storage capacity. Offsite shipments of stored fuel also began at that time. At the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center, two support buildings 7920 and 7930 are used in conjunction with HFIR.

HFIR began low power testing in August 1965 and was completed in January 1966. That same year it began full-power operations. Reactor operations were scheduled to provide 132 days of full-power steady-state neutron beams in FY 2007. The facility was projected to reach 176 days of full-power steady-state neutron beams per year in the coming years. HFIR is expected to continue operation through 2040 and beyond. As of July 2008, ORNL had no money in its budget for the production of radioisotopes and its existing supply was expected to be depleted by the end of the year. It is expected that the isotopes isotopes program within the DOE will be transferred from the nuclear energy program to the Office of Science.


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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:42:29 ZULU