The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reactor (MITR-II) operates a 5 MW heavy-water reflected, light-water cooled and moderated research reactor that utilizes flat, plate-type fuel. The MITR is the major experimental facility of the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, which is an interdepartmental laboratory that functions as a center of both education and research for many MIT departments as well as local-area universities and hospitals.
The MITR has a very broad research program that encompasses most aspects of neutron science and engineering including nuclear medicine (neutron capture therapy and radiation synovectomy), neutron activation analysis for the identification of air pollutants and isotope ratios in geological specimens, fission engineering including digital control of spacecraft reactors, materials testing and evaluations, and teaching. The MITR is one of only six facilities in the world to be engaged in patient trials for the use of boron neutron capture (BNCT) therapy to treat both glioblastoma multiforme (brain tumors) and deep-seated melanoma (skin cancer). Many types of experiments have been conducted. A sampling includes:
- A loop for the study of organic coolants in power-generating reactors.
- Neutron physics including refinement of charge neutrality measurements.
- Reactor physics of D2O and H2O moderated reactors.
- Fast breeder blanket neutronic studies.
- Boron neutron capture therapy using thermal neutrons.
- Use of neutron activation analysis for a variety of topics including:
- mineral uptake in the human body using stable isotopes,
- analysis of meteorites and lava flows, and
- identification of origin of air pollutants.
- Studies of candidate materials for the first wall of fusion machines.
- Development and demonstration of techniques for the closed-loop digital control of spacecraft and terrestrial reactors.
- Radiation synovectomy (use of beta-emitters to treat arthritis of the knee).
- In-core loops for the evaluation of water chemistries for PWR and BWRs.
- Verification of the linearity of the neutron wave equation.
- Studies to identify the cause of crack propagation in PWR materials.
- Neutron capture therapy using epithermal neutrons.
- Radiation synovectomy using boron neutron capture therapy.