August 15, 2005, Penn State's Breazeale Nuclear Reactor celebrated 50 years as the longest continuously operating university reactor in the United States.
According to a historical marker placed on the reactor site by the Penn State Alumni Association, "Penn State in 1955 became the first university licensed by the Atomic Energy Comission to operate a nuclear reactor as part of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's 'Atoms for Peace' program. Named for William Breazeale, Penn State's first professor of nuclear engineering, the reactor became a training and research tool for peaceful applications of atomic energy."
Licensed in July of 1955, the reactor went critical on August 15 of that year, and has been running ever since. It has been used for education, research, and service by University departments as varied as nuclear engineering, biology, anthropology, geosciences, and food science. In addition to aiding understanding of how reactors work and how to make them work better, the research reactor has provided a source of neutrons for basic and applied research including neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography, basic materials research, and radiation effects studies.
In 1992, the American Nuclear Society designated the Breazeale Reactor as a Nuclear Historic Landmark.
For more information about the reactor and its history, visit the Radiation Science and Engineering Center.