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Center capabilities

nuclear science, education, & research

Our mission at the Nuclear Science Center is to provide a safe and effective environment where we meaningfully contribute to impactful projects, research, and vibrant teaching programs in nuclear science at WSU.

There are many services available at the WSU Nuclear Science Center for researchers including but not limited to the capabilities listed below.  If your research or project can be furthered by any of the services that we can perform, please feel free to contact the Center staff.

1 MW TRIGA reactor

Located in the Dodgen Research Facility, the WSU Nuclear Science Center operates the only research reactor in the State of Washington. The NSC reactor offers project leadership and collaboration in addition to neutron irradiation of samples for research, commercial isotope production, and is capable of same-day irradiation and shipping of high priority samples to most places in the continental U.S.

Radiotracer production

Research materials require high purity and precision to produce reliable results. Our reactor and facilities produce research radiotracers for WSU departments at low cost, fast turnaround, and superior service.  We are capable of shipping radiotracers offsite to other institutions, as well as within WSU to meet the needs of our clients.

Isotope production

A non-trivial amount of the world’s isotope production capabilities are produced in the fleet of research reactors, many of which are located here in the USA. The NSC reactor staff are uniquely qualified to produce commercial quantity and grade radioisotopes for industry.  Our staff and administrators are experienced in production lines of many currently available radioisotopes and are knowledgeable in logistics and shipping of these isotopes to various sites throughout the country.

Neutron activation analysis

Neutron activation analysis (NAA) is a nondestructive gamma analysis method used to determine elemental concentrations in unknown samples. It is especially useful for determining amounts of heavy metals – up to parts per billion – in samples often on the milligram scale. The Center has many liquid nitrogen cooled high-purity germanium detectors that can run simultaneously for a host of NAA and gamma analysis needs.

Structural characterization

A Bruker Smart Apex II SCXRD system with an Apex2s CCD detector and an Oxford Cryosystems Cryostream 700 Controller is located onsite.  Single crystal X-ray diffraction (SCXRD) uses X-ray radiation diffracting off of the electron clouds of atoms to determine the three-dimensional structure of a molecule or molecules in the solid state.  The X-rays, diffracting according to Bragg’s Law, are measured in terms of their intensity and exact origin on a CCD camera, and then are fit to a computer model of the atomic crystal structure. The data are compared to this model and the measured atomic structure so that bond lengths, bond angles, and atomic interactions can be modeled with great precision and accuracy.

Mass spectrometry

The Center houses an Agilent Series 4500 Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). ICP-MS is a destructive analysis technique ideal for trace elemental analysis.  ICP-MS offers an excellent mix of precision, speed, and sensitivity.  Using an argon based inductively coupled plasma to ionize a sample for mass spectrometry, the ICP-MS is capable of reaching detection limits in the mid to low parts per billion range for many material compositions.

Gamma irradiations

Two separate gamma irradiation facilities located at the Center can be used for a wide array of research including cell, plasma, and biological material sterilization.  It has also facilitated the mutation of seeds, examination of the radiation degradation effects of various compounds, and performance of radiation damage studies in electronic components.


Our available resources include several wet chemistry laboratories with fume hoods, a sample packaging lab used for trace-element analysis sample preparation, and technicians and scientists familiar with the techniques needed for radiochemical analysis.  Spectroscopy and counting labs are available to researchers at the facility as are traditional laboratory spaces. Additionally, we provide office and laboratory space for the Office of Research Assurance’s Radiation Safety Office, facilitating material transfers to on-campus researchers. Our staff is fully trained in radioactive shipping procedures under 49 CFR and IATA to expedite off-campus transfers that utilize Facility License R-76.

Alpha spectroscopy

We maintain a series of alpha-particle spectrometers that can be used to determine quantities of the various isotopes of uranium, plutonium, americium, and thorium in most biological materials.  Qualified staff members and researchers are available to aid in the best use of these specialized detectors.