Message from the Director

Welcome to the Radiation Science and Engineering Center (RSEC), home of the Penn State Breazeale Reactor (PSBR). The RSEC promotes research, education, and applications of radiation and nuclear science and engineering to students, faculty, and staff at Penn State, as well as to scientists in universities, governments, and industries worldwide. The RSEC falls under the Vice President for Research and the College of Engineering at Penn State.

The PSBR is the longest continuously operating licensed research reactor in the United States. It is the cornerstone of the nuclear engineering teaching community at Penn State and the courses taught at the RSEC support the education of all of nuclear engineering undergraduate and graduate students each year. The laboratory courses at the RSEC include: radiation detection and measurement, experiments in reactor physics, reactor operations testing, nuclear and radiochemistry, and nuclear security education laboratory.

The RSEC is also strongly engaged in public outreach activities, which bring more than 3,000 people to the facility each year. Tours range from primary school students, scouting groups, high school students, and teachers to college students, visiting faculty, and government officials.

The PSBR is a primary neutron source for radiation services as well as research and development for many industrial and government entities. Over twenty organizations use our services every year for work in the areas of in-core irradiation, fast-neutron irradiations, thermal neutron irradiations, and gamma-ray irradiations. The PSBR’s large open pool design and moveable reactor core provide maximum flexibility for experimental apparatus.

As we celebrate 60 years of achievements in research, teaching, outreach and service, I would like to highlight some of our accomplishments over the last seven years.

  • The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the PSBR a 20-year license renewal in November 2009. This is the fourth license review (1955, 1965, 1985, and 2009) for the PSBR. Since 2008, PSBR staff members have earned fourteen reactor operator and nine senior reactor operator licenses.
  • We completed $12.5 million in infrastructure improvements. These improvements included building, roof, and parking lot renovations; security enhancements; radiochemistry research and teaching, and nuclear security education laboratories; new core moderator assembly and beam ports; and reactor instrumentation improvements. Additionally, equipment valued at $1.3 million was received as gifts from various sources.
Infrastructure Improvements Table
  • We pursued and secured funding for a new reactor core/moderator assembly and the realignment of our neutron beam ports. We are continuing to pursue funding for an expanded neutron beam hall, which would provide the physical space needed for the inclusion of modern, neutron-enabled analytical techniques that will be of assistance to researchers at Penn State and around the world.
  • We have spearheaded or collaborated on a wide range of interdisciplinary research projects since 2008. Projects involve faculty, students, and scientists from the Penn State College of Engineering, other Penn State colleges, U.S. and international universities, U.S. national laboratories, and industry. Topics range from neutron-induced soft error measurements, time of flight neutron depth profiling, neutron imaging and transmission measurements, neutron beam characterizations and modeling, and cold neutron source designs, to fission track analyses, the production of radioisotopes for medical research applications, neutron activation analysis techniques to determine trace materials in dated tree rings and archaeological and industrial materials, and gamma-ray irradiation projects like bio-reactor sterilizations for breast cancer research and cryoreduction of proteins to elucidate biochemical mechanisms.
  • We developed a graduate nuclear security education program. Educating the next generation of technical experts in nuclear security practices is a critical to ensuring the successful long-term operational security of nuclear and radiological materials worldwide.
  • We contributed to the national effort to revitalize radiochemistry teaching and research in the U. S. by constructing radiochemistry research and teaching laboratories, and designing undergraduate and graduate curricula. These efforts also include research on the production and purification of radioactive medical isotopes, another national research priority.

The Penn State RSEC will continue its mission of safely providing neutron and gamma-ray sources and nuclear techniques for research, education, and service into the future. The RSEC, with its resources, tradition of excellence, experienced nationally and internationally recognized experts, and available and planned facilities, is and will continue to be one of the major leaders of the revitalization of nuclear science and engineering in the U. S. for years to come.

Kenan Ünlü, PhD

Director, Radiation Science and Engineering Center

Professor of Nuclear Engineering

Kenan Unlu


The Radiation Science & Engineering Center (RSEC) was established to manage Penn State's comprehensive nuclear research facilities, including the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor, Gamma Irradiation Facility, Radioactive sources and Radiation measurement resources. The RSEC provides safe nuclear analytical and testing facilities in support of the research and education activities of faculty, staff, and students at Penn State.

Radition Science & Engineering Center

101 Breazeale Nuclear Reactor

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-865-6351