AUSTIN, Texas—The Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory (NETL) Reactor at The University of Texas at Austin has been shutdown for approximately one month to investigate swelling and bulging of the reactor reflector. The reflector is a large stationary ring of graphite contained in an aluminum canister and surrounds the reactor fuel.
As of mid-November, all reactor fuel had been removed from the reactor core for complete inspection of the reflector. It has been tentatively determined that the swelling is caused by a small amount of water leaking into the reflector through a pinhole weld defect. The radiation from the reactor causes the small amount of water to breakdown into hydrogen and oxygen gas producing swelling of the reflector aluminum container. The gases are currently in a stable, contained condition. There is no ignition source, but the mixture exceeds the allowable limits for these gases in and around the reactor.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was notified of this situation on Thursday, Dec. 2. The NRC is working closely with the staff at the NETL to evaluate any potential safety significance and to review all corrective actions.
For additional information contact: Dr. Dale Klein, vice chancellor for engineering programs at The University of Texas System at (512) 459-0075 or (512) 499-4709 through noon, Sunday, Dec. 5. After noon Sunday, NETL Associate Director Sean OÌKelly will be available at (512) 255-6108 or (512) 232-5373.