Utah Nuclear Engineering Program Relocates its Retired Reactor

The U Donates Nuclear Reactor to ISU

The AGN-201 reactor, the University of Utah’s inaugural reactor, was decommissioned in 1996, and all AGN fuel and nuclear instrumentation was transferred to Idaho State University (ISU). Yet the AGN tank remained, and occupying valuable lab space of the Utah Nuclear Engineering Program (UNEP) for over 20 years.

In November 2023, the AGN tank was finally transferred to ISU, but transporting it was a seriously complex operation. Andrew Allison, UNEP’s Reactor Operations Manager, orchestrated the logistics between Idaho State University’s reactor supervisor, the University of Utah’s project management office, and the University police. They arranged for a contractor to handle the rigging and transportation, all while maintaining the security of the facility, even with lab’s bay door open.

ISU stands to gain significantly from the AGN reactor, further enhancing nuclear engineering education. Originally built in the 1950s and 60s, AGN reactors served as a training tools for universities, shaping the first generation of nuclear engineering in higher education. Its design and fuel composition, utilizing 20% enriched U-235 in a polyethylene matrix with modest dimensions and a maximum power of 5.0 Watts, made it unique.

In contrast, UNEP’s current TRIGA Reactor is a swimming pool reactor that doesn’t require a containment building and is designed for diverse research and testing purposes. Using uranium zirconium hydride (UZrH) fuel, it boasts unique safety features, allowing safe operations up to 100kW.

With the removal of the old AGN tank, Andrew and UNEP can now repurpose the space for TRIGA reactor maintenance and other essential lab projects, ensuring the continuation of Utah’s sole Nuclear Engineering Program.