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September 10, 1982 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-10

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, September 10, 1982-Page 9

U' reactor focuses

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By LOU FINTOR
In the lobby of the University's North
Campus Ford Nuclear Reactor hangs a
tapestry depicting a legendary bird-
the phoenix - mythically rising from
its own ashes after consuming itself in
flames.
THE TAPESTRY is a reminder of the
combined destructive potential and
peaceful application of the atom. And
recognizing the atom's potential power,
University researchers started raising
funds 30 years ago to build a reactor.
In the fall of 1957, efforts paid off and
the University's Ford Nuclear Reactor
- termed the Phoenix Project - was
activated.
According to nuclear engineering
Prof. William Kerr, the project's direc-
tor, the reactor assists students and,
researchers with projects encom-
passing several disciplines, including
engineering, physics chemistry, and
the health sciences.
"What we get here are students who
will be able to observe," Kerr said.
"Over the years we've trained a num-
ber of people."
KERR SAID the reactor is necessary
for certain experiments exploring the
nature of particles and compounds
because "certain forces and reactions
require high energy.''
Of the approximately 40 University-
related nuclear reactors currently in
operation across the country, only three
operate at higher power levels than the
Ford reactor, according to Kerr.
"We operate at two megawatts of
heat power," he said. Although the
reactor core contains no moveable par-
N 'ts, power is generated and measured
through heat given off by reactions in
the core, he explained. d
"IT'S FAIRLY simple and up to now
a well-behaved system," Kerr said.

"We employ 10-12 people who are licen-
sed reactor operators," he added.
Upon entering the reactor room
several bright yellow and red radiation
warning signs confronts visitors. But
staff members maintain an elaborate
system of radiation safety involving
leaded glass, double-doors, film ex-
posure badges for staff, and a strict
policy of escorting all visitors.
"We've had no problems with the per-
formance of the reactor," Kerr ex-
plained. "At present we operate 24
hours a day for ten days, then shut
down for a four-day maintenance
period."
The reactor core is bathed in a large
pool containing over 55,000 gallons of
water. The water absorbs heat emitted
by the aluminum-clad fuel rods which
are used as a power source.
Looking down into the core an icy-
blue glow - given off as the fuel
element (Uranium 235) reacts during
experiments-is strikingly apparent.
"WE DO generate radioactive
material. Some of it is very short-lived,
but some of it has to be disposed of off-
campus," Kerr said.

According to Kerr, the Univeristy
radiation disposal service is contacted
to remove and ship out radioactive
waste, although some waste materials
can be stored at the Phoenix facility for
four to five months.
"It could be a problem, but it isn't a
problem yet," Kerr said of waste
disposal. 'At any time, these places
could be closed down by the people run-
ning them," he added.
EXAMPLES of medical advances
made possible by the reactor include
the synthesis of radiopharmacueticals
for medical use and an x-ray technique
termed "x-ray fluorescense" which can
be used to look at objects more
precisely than conventional x-ray
techniques.
Kerr said the reactor produces radioac-
tive Iodine 131, a tracer substance used
to track down and treat cetain forms of
cancer. In a recent University medical
breakthrough, a form of this substance
- developed by using the reactor -
was found to successfully treat
previously untreatable tumors of the
adrenal glands.
According to Kerr, the project

esearch
operates on a yearly budget of ap-
proximately $550,000. Approximately
$380,000 comes directly from the'
University's General Fund budget. The
remainder is provided by research
support and a small amount left over
from funds raised to originally start the
project.
Although use of the reactor is4
available to private industry, faculty
and students are given first priority,'
then researchers~ from other univer-s
sities are given time and space that isi
left, Kerr said.
This story was reprinted from th4
Daily's summer edition.
Who ever said .
4
college was all '
work and no play?
a
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10J
8:00 pm. Sunday. September 12 2
Anderson Rm. Michigan Union
yal7175

Daily Photo by DOU

iMMAt

THE RESEARCH CENTERS of the North Campus Ford Nuclear Reactor,
such as the laboratory room pictured here, are protected by an elaborate
security system.

SAL
OFF
*EVERYTHING!
THE UNION STOP
Michigan Memorabilia

*

*

*Tougher
drunken
*driers
proposed
;.LANSING (UPJ, - The state's top
dug and highway safety agencies
yesterday recommended new drunken
driving laws which step up enforeement
but place less emphasis on harsh
penalties than some legislative
Oproposals.
A key portion of the report, prepared
for Gov. William G. Milliken by the of-
fIce of substance abuse services and the
office of highway safety planning, calls
for creation of optional civil sanctions
for drunken driving.
Milliken said, he will review the
document and comments from the state
police and office of criminal justice
before making his own legislative
recommendations.
The Senate has adopted a strong
package which punished drunken driv
ers with mandatory license suspensions
and jail terms.
It makes a.10 blood alcohol level con-
clusive proof of drunkenness, not just
evidence, and allows police to ad-
minister roadside breathalyzer tests
The measures are pending in the
House Judiciary Committee where they
have met with some objections from a
!variety of groups, including the
Michigan Sheriffs Association which
worries they will overload the law en-
forcement system.

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