Penn State College of Engineering

Celebrating 60 years of Nuclear Research at Penn State

The Penn State Breazeale Nuclear Reactor is the longest operating licensed research reactor in the United States.

Penn State was one of the first universities to take advantage of the "Atoms for Peace" program. Then-University President Milton Eisenhower, the brother of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, supported the construction of a reactor for research and education. On July 8, 1955, the Penn State Breazeale Reactor received the first research reactor license issued by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1956, Penn State was one of only two universities established as an International School of Nuclear Science and Engineering. As part of this program, a total of 175 scientists and engineers from 39 countries were educated at Penn State from 1956-1959. The facility also conducted training programs for reactor operators in the U.S. until the early 1980s training over 900 operators.

The Breazeale Reactor produces no electricity and is used solely for research, education, and service. Over 3,000 people visit the reactor each year for tours, including elementary, middle, high school, and college students as well as visiting faculty, government officials, and other special interest groups.

In the last five years, the Breazeale Reactor has had significant infrastructure improvements. Currently, work is taking place to change the reactor core-moderator assembly and build new beam ports. There are also plans for a future building expansion.

Landmarks Through the Years:
1955 Received the first research reactor license issued by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Operation began in August 1955.
1963 Added a research wing to increase space and two hot cells added to allow safe handling for highly radioactive specimens.
1967 Established the Radionuclear Application Laboratory to increase research activity and reactor use.
1969 Held first Nuclear Concepts Institute, which teaches high school teachers about nuclear technology. This program continues today.
1970 Named Penn State Breazeale Reactor in honor of Dr. William Breazeale, its first director.
1987 Received $300,000 from Philadelphia Electric Company toward new control and safety system. System was installed in 1992.
1990 Established Radiation Science and Engineering Center.
1991 Received the American Nuclear Society Nuclear Historic Landmark Award.
2009 Awarded $2 million DOE-NNSA grant for security enhancements.
2011 Completed a $4 million renovation of the RSEC facilities (Phase I).
2012 Established a nuclear security education laboratory and radiochemistry laboratory with DOE-NNSA and NRC grants.
2013 Awarded $1.36 million DOE grant to upgrade neutron beam ports.

For more information on the Radiation Science & Engineering Center’s current research and activities, visit

breazeale nuclear reactor 1955-2015

Anniversary Celebration

August 18, 2015

Open house and tours

Radiation Science & Engineering Center

(Breazeale Nuclear Reactor)

Penn State, University Park Campus

9:00 am - 1:30 pm

Open to the public

Anniversary program

100 Thomas Building

Program will highlight the history of the reactor; current teaching, research, and outreach activities; and future plans.

3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Open to the public


Handicap parking will be available at the Radiation Science & Engineering Center. All other visitors must park in a visitor parking lot. The closest lots are the East Parking Deck, the Eisenhower Parking Deck, or the lots near Beaver Stadium. A one-day permit may be purchased from any Kiosk Booth.

For more information on parking, visit the transportation services website or call Wendy Belinc at 814-865-6351.

Campus Map    |    Agenda

President Dwight Eisenhower at the Penn State reactor control console in 1955

President Dwight Eisenhower at the Penn State reactor control console in 1955.

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