September 4, 2001

Decision Came Quick, But Ward Is Not Going Quietly

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Cornell’s nuclear research reactor, the last of its kind in New York and one of only 26 left in the country, will soon hit the graveyard, further endangering a rare technology in an era when nuclear engineering is on the rise.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously last summer to decommission the reactor and close the Ward Center for Nuclear Studies, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

Heated controversy met the decision, which had been requested by President Hunter R. Rawlings III and recommended by a special faculty oversight committee.

The decision to decommission the reactor had been rejected by the full Faculty Senate under the grounds that the center provides “a diverse array of service to the Cornell community and beyond.”

Alumni and industry users had also addressed inflammatory responses to the administration.

And about 20 undergraduates were gathered outside Day Hall to present a petition with 200 signatures opposing the closure.

Despite these efforts and the announcement of a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help save the reactor and make it financially independent from the University, the reactor is scheduled to shut down on June 30, 2002.

Money cannot be the main reason for closing the reactor because the phase-out is going to be very expensive, said Kenan