The mission of the operations staff is to maintain and run the reactor safely and reliably to support users and their research. The approximately 20-person crew is made up of full-time staff and part-time MIT student operators who take shifts to keep the reactor running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Several engineering staff members also help to maintain the reactor by working on projects to continuously upgrade reactor systems and components and improve reliability.
The reactor operates on a quarterly schedule with outage periods of approximately 2 weeks each quarter to allow for required retesting and calibration of equipment and instrumentation, refueling, system upgrades, and replacement of system consumables such as ion exchange resin filters and neutron absorbing control blades.
Each year we support a new class of operator trainees to take a license exam conducted by an examiner from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). To receive their license, trainees must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of all reactor systems, reactor physics, and perform a reactor startup during the exam. Some of the license candidates are MIT students who will work part time to gain experience at the reactor and support reactor operations by covering shifts. One of the missions of the NRL is to provide valuable educational experience to the next generation of nuclear engineers and leaders through its student operator program. Click here to learn more about our student operator program.