University student arrested for threatening to detonate on-campus nuclear reactor if school's football team lost

Originally published at: University student arrested for threatening to detonate on-campus nuclear reactor if school's football team lost | Boing Boing


This kind of energy leads to teachers talking about killing a dog mascot if a different class won:

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A buddy of mine was a nuclear engineering student when I was at Penn State, and I would frequently visit him at the reactor. It’s pretty wild (and more than a little creepy) to be able to stare directly though thirty feet of crystal-clear water into the glowing-blue heart of a nuclear pile. Considering the design of these teaching reactors, they would be very difficult to “detonate.” Even if it was possible, said detonation would not be of the nuclear bomb type.


I knew sports culture here in the states is toxic but, holy shit dude.


Pretty sure you can’t detonate that if you tried, but still not a funny joke.

K-State had a reactor on campus, which I got to see a couple times. I shoulda gone into engineering or something :confused:


I got to visit the one at Reed! It was super cool, but yeah, I remember that the actual design was pretty dang safe for obvious reasons (since you know, 19 years old running it) but what a dumb move by this kid.


Yay! Sports! Yay! Sports Fans! Yay!



It’s a little surprising something like this doesn’t happen more often? Maybe it does, and it just doesn’t get this much attention? This really doesn’t seem like the sort of thing one wants publicized – I doubt the public is much interested in hearing for the umpteenth time a measured, grounded explanation about how nuclear reactors cannot detonate.


The TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes General Atomics) reactors that most universities have are pretty safe. Contrast that with the research reactor at MIT, which uses highly enriched uranium. and has a higher power level.
Edited to add: I’m not implying that MITs reactor isn’t safe, or safely operated. But there was considerable concern post 9/11 that it constituted a proliferation risk and security was increased.


And we wonder where the new Timothy McVeighs are going to come from.

They are here, and they are all around us.

And they are not foreigners, and not Muslim.


and they say online fandom is toxic, sheesh.


‘General Atomics’ has to be the most futuristic name of a corporation ever.

Many research reactors around the world are being redesigned so they don’t need such highly-enriched uranium. Some of them ran on 70%, even 90% enriched uranium (which is close to bomb grade and really easy to make bomb grade with relatively little effort).

Something like 3.5 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium has been returned by the IAEA to the US since 9/11 with the reactors now running on 20% enrichment which is much less of a proliferation risk.

The 1960s and 1970s were mad!


Nuclear reactors and sports facilities have a relationship going back to the very beginning, you know.



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This clearly shows poor judgement on the part of the student, and the school/police should definitely investigate it thoroughly. That said, if it turns out that this was clearly a bad joke and not a credible threat, I don’t think it would be justified to ruin this kid’s life over the incident. Not to say there shouldn’t be consequences, but expulsion/jail are probably overkill.


In addition to the University run research reactors, there are a few reactors being run by private business entities. Notably Eastman Kodak (yes the film people) had one from 1975 right up until 2006.


At Aberdeen Proving Ground, they used to have a bare reactor assembly that they stored in a hole in the ground and would remove and then pulse it the top of a gantry so that they could radiation test military equipment and include skyshine* as part of the test.

As an adult, I discovered that there was a small reactor located at Walter Reed Annex in Forest Glen within ~1/2 mile from the school that I attended 1st-4th grades.

*some of the air become irradiated and in turn re-radiates in all directions.


They did manufacture a principle component for this device

Perhaps some of the researchers cited in this vintage manual worked for Kodak.


Knew it rang a bell, Scott Manley did a video on this type of reactor recently:

tl/dw you’d have to try really, really, hard to irradiate more than yourself with this design.

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