Since 1958, the NRL has provided a safe and reliable neutron source and the infrastructure to facilitate use of that source. During its long and distinguished history, the NRL has supported educational training and cutting-edge research in the areas of nuclear fission engineering, material science, radiation effects in biology and medicine, neutron physics, geochemistry, and environmental studies. As a result, countless undergraduate and graduate students have benefited from their association with NRL. It is the only university research reactor facility in the U.S. where students can be directly involved in the development and implementation of nuclear engineering experimental programs with neutron flux levels comparable to power reactors. As such, the MITR-II, which is also referred to as the MITR, is an indispensable resource for developing the workforce that will help to realize the new vision for the future of nuclear power. Through the years, these students have been offered an opportunity to pursue their research by utilizing a research reactor that has provided a unique hands-on environment.
The reactor, which is designated as the MITR-II, is the second of two research reactors that have been operated by the NRL. The original reactor (MITR-I) achieved criticality in 1958. In 1973, the MITR-I was shut down to allow conversion to the MITR-II, which offered a higher neutron flux level.
On July 8, 1999, a formal application was submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to relicense the reactor for an additional 20 years and to upgrade the power level from 5 MW to 6 MW. In November 2010, the Nuclear Regulation Commission issued a license renewal along with approval to upgrade reactor power to 6 MW. After many years of planning followed by the arduous process of relicensing, the MITR-II is now successfully operating at its approved licensing limit of 6 MW. In order to accomplish the transition to this long-sought-after higher operating power, major improvements were made to several reactor operating systems. This milestone achievement has resulted in a 20% increase in neutron flux that will benefit researchers and students from MIT and across the country when they conduct research utilizing the MITR-II.