At Northwest Nuclear Laboratories we receive a lot of questions. This page covers most of the common ones.
how much is tuition?
Currently we do not charge tuition, though this may change in the future. This is an entirely philanthropic endeavor funded entirely by our sponsors. Please consider donating to Northwest Nuclear Laboratories by clicking on the DONATE button on the top of this page if you believe your child is receiving real value for their participation. This will enable us to enhance the experience. We are a 501-C-3 corporation.
does THE NRC know about this?
Yes. The NRC, City of Federal Way, DSHS, and the Washington State Office of Radiation Protection as well as Washington State are fully aware that we have a nuclear reactor. Representatives of the Office of Radiation Protection evaluated the facility in 2010 and thoroughly investigated the reactor. Not only did they not find any safety or regulatory issues, they were so impressed by our students that they came back and gave a lecture on becoming health physicists.
what about radiation?
Radiation is happening all around us at all times, be it from the sun, from naturally decaying elements, or from the universe itself. Northwest Nuclear Laboratories utilizes CHP Dosimetry to facilitate a complete industry standard radiation badging program for all students and adults that is used in conjunction with our own radiation monitoring and data logging equipment. Our monitoring equipment is calibrated regularly against check sources, and certified by the manufacturer for accuracy. Students are taught radiation safety from an OSHA state certified curriculum, and the DOE. During the entire time Northwest Nuclear Laboratories has been in operation none of our students have been exposed to radiation levels greater that those naturally occurring in the environment.
what about nuclear waste
Northwest Nuclear Laboratories uses a fusion reactor which is fundamentally different than a fission reactor used in electrical grid scale power production. Fission reactors use Uranium as a fuel and fission involves harnessing the energy from "splitting" atoms. The atomic by-product creates unstable elements that emit radiation over time, and these reactors can not be instantly shut down. A fusion reactor, like the one we have built, collides high-energy particles called ions, usually in the form of Hydrogen called Deuterium. The by-product is an unmeasurably small amount of Tritium, an isotope that is used in key rings and baggage markers.
Can it explode?
Ok, we don't get asked that directly...but it is on everyone's mind. The answer is 'No'. Fusion reactors act quite differently from fission reactors. Fusion reactors require a large amount of external electricity to excite the particle(s) in order to get them to fuse together. Once the energy source is terminated, the fusion events are terminated and the reactor is instantly and completely shut down. There is no residual activity. There is also, no opportunity for the reactor to go "super-critical", which is the state that a fission reactor would need to be in to explode.