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Erkki Laitila/Helsingin Sanomat, TRIGA research reactor is presented to the press in Finland, 1962, Wikimedia Commons

Issue Brief

TRIGA Program and Nuclear Research

General Atomics’s TRIGA (Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics) is a nuclear reactor. It is the most widely used non-power nuclear reactor in the world, with 66 facilities in 24 countries. Used by universities, government and industrial laboratories, and medical centers, the reactor has many diverse applications, such as the treatment of tumors, nondestructive testing, and education. One of the main distinguishing elements of TRIGA is its use of uranium-zirconium hydride fuel, which is relatively safe.

The prototype TRIGA was commissioned on May 3, 1958 and was a landmark event because it innovated safe capabilities in nuclear reactors. While General Atomics minimizes the risks, there are environmental concerns associated with the temporary storage of the spent fuel at the reactor facility, its transportation, and final disposal.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) operates a TRIGA Reactor located at the Federal Center in Denver, Colorado. It is designed to support USGS science by U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S Geological Survey, "The U.S. Geological Survey’s TRIGA Reactor," Fact Sheet 2012–3093, July 2012, https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2012/3093/pdf/fs2012-3093.pdf.“providing information on geologic, plant, and animal specimens to advance methods and techniques unique to nuclear reactors.” 

The TRIGA reactor is part of a global and national effort to continue nuclear research. Around the country, the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Programs serve to consolidate university support to better integrate university research. Since 2009, the program has awarded around $290 million to 89 colleges and universities to support the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists.


General Atomics. "TRIGA Nuclear Reactors." Accessed August 1, 2020. 

U.S. Department of Energy. "Nuclear Energy University Program." Accessed August 1, 2020.

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S Geological Survey. "The U.S. Geological Survey’s TRIGA Reactor." Fact Sheet 2012–3093. July 2012. Accessed August 1, 2020.

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