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Nuclear reactor console ribbon-cutting/dedication Oct. 20 among Nuclear Science Week activities at Idaho State

By Andrew Taylor, Marketing Assistant Director | October 15, 2020

POCATELLO – A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the new operating console for Idaho State University’s research and training nuclear reactor will be held on Oct. 20 as part of Nuclear Science Week activities at the University.

Nuclear reactor console ribbon-cutting/dedication Oct. 20 among Nuclear Science Week activities at Idaho State
Manning the new reactor operating console are Idaho State University graduate student Kofi Tuffor-Achamong, right, and senior Spencer Ercanbrack, who are two of many students to work with the AGN-201 Nuclear Reactor since it was donated to ISU in 1965. Photo by Jordon Beesley

The ISU Department of Nuclear Engineering ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., but is not open to the public because of the pandemic. However, video of the ceremony will be posted and available for viewing at 4 p.m. Oct. 20 on the Idaho State YouTube channel youtube.com/idahostateu and a virtual tour of the reactor facility will be available online at isu.edu/NE.

“By upgrading to the new console, we now have a reactor on campus that is fundamentally good to go for another 50 years,” said Chad Pope, Department of Nuclear Engineering chair and professor.  “By getting this upgrade in place it really makes the ISU nuclear engineering program here for the long haul. The INL is not going anywhere and we are not going anywhere. We are built for the long term.”

Idaho State has been home to an Aerojet-General Nucleonics nuclear reactor, commonly known as AGN-201, since it was donated by the Idaho National Laboratory in 1965. AGN-201 is a low-power, 5 watts, reactor that is commonly used for both academic and industrial research/experiments, as well as for various testing and training purposes. It is located in the Nuclear Science Laboratory on the lower level of the Lillibridge Engineering Building.

Replacing the console was an approximately 15-year process that couldn’t have been completed without the dedication of Jay Kunze, ISU professor emeritus of nuclear engineering and former dean. Kunze is being honored at the event for his work on the reactor console and his overall dedication and service to the university. The new console, built and designed at ISU, will have a plaque on it recognizing him.

“Jay Kunze has really been the driving force behind getting this project to completion,” said Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering and Center for Advanced Energy Studies, associate nuclear engineering professor and current reactor administrator. “It takes time and persistence to get this type of project completed and that is what he provided. He just kept it going, found students and faculty to get involved and engineering professionals to volunteer their help. He just never gave up. This is an example of the many things he has done to support the university, the college and, specifically, the nuclear program over the years.”

Pope noted the upgrade to the console was the work of many individuals over a very lengthy period of time and credited all who worked on it.

“A lot of skilled and talented people participated, but it was really the determination of Jay Kunze that saw it to completion,” Pope said. “It is just that simple, and that is why it is so important to recognize his leadership in seeing this task to completion and the significance it has for the ISU nuclear engineering program going forward for decades to come.”

During Nuclear Science Week, running Oct. 18-24, the Department of Nuclear Engineering is also recognizing Dunzik-Gougar, who is serving as national American Nuclear Society president. In addition, ISU is honoring the late professor and department chair Michael Lineberry, who also had a 38-year career at Argonne National Laboratory as a senior nuclear engineer and division director.  He died in 2014 at the age of 67.

“He was our department chair in nuclear engineering but was a long-time proponent and supporter of education before coming to academia,” Dunzik-Gougar said. “He retired from Argonne National Lab and came full time to the university. He really helped build the foundation for the department that exists today so we want to honor him posthumously.”

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