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During its nearly 50-year history of operation, the University of Missouri Research Reactor, or MURR, has proven to be a substantial stimulant of scientific research. But when former MU President Elmer Ellis proposed the idea in the late 1950s, it was considered novel. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, with a mission to promote and control peacetime development of atomic science and technology, was little more than a decade old at the time.
Huber O. Croft, former dean of the College of Engineering, suggested the idea of a university research reactor to Ellis, who then cast the vision for the reactor as we know it today. Ellis appointed a committee that spent months surveying faculty, estimating costs and possibilities and meeting with federal and state agencies to determine the effect a research reactor would have on scientific innovation at MU. The results of that study showed overwhelming support for the initiative.
“New vistas of a nuclear age have touched every field of science, from agriculture to medicine, from geology to zoology and from engineering to veterinary science, in addition to the important discoveries being made in chemistry and physics,” Ellis said in a press release following the study’s release. “All those fields are a part of the University of Missouri’s educational responsibilities to our youth and to all our citizens. We have to move forward with the nuclear age, lest we fall hopelessly behind.”
The Missouri Legislature passed an appropriations bill that was signed by Missouri Gov. James T. Blair in June 1959. On Nov. 21, 1961, and the Atomic Energy Commission issued a construction permit for the university’s reactor.
By the fall of 1966, MURR was completed and fully operational at a cost of $3.4 million. And the predictions of Ellis’ committee proved accurate. Today, the 10-megawatt internationally recognized reactor supports the research of hundreds of faculty and students each year in dozens of disciplines. It is also the largest of its kind in the United States and the most intense neutron source of the approximately 27 other research reactors located on university campuses.
MURR is located about one mile southwest of the university’s main campus, just off Providence Road on Research Park Drive, and supports a variety of projects that benefit Missourians and other universities, industries and agencies nationwide.