Nuclear Timeline

View the history of nuclear technology in Illinois and our future milestones for the project.

First human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction

Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directs and controls the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon successful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.” (


TRIGA goes critical

TRIGA, officially known as the University of Illinois Advanced Teaching Research Isotope General Atomic (TRIGA Mark II) Reactor,  went critical on August 16, 1960. The reactor was extremely popular, being used primarily for the training of students in nuclear engineering, but also as an interdisciplinary facility, with the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Physiology and Biophysics, Physics and various other engineering departments all competing for time with the facility.


TRIGA reactor closes

Administrative decisions led to TRIGA’s shuttering in 1998.


TRIGA reactor's fuel is removed


Nuclear reactor building dismantled

The dismantlement of the remaining portions of the reactor and Nuclear Reactor Building on the Urbana campus were completed in 2012.


HIDRA arrives at UIUC

HIDRA (Hybrid Illinois Device for Research and Applications), the multi-million dollar plasma/fusion advanced physics testing facility, arrives on the UIUC campus. With HIDRA, the University joins a short list of universities worldwide that have an operating fusion device on its campus. 


TRIGA reactor named National Historic Landmark

The former TRIGA reactor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society. It was cited for “educating students in reactor operations,” and for “groundbreaking research in the areas of fission fragment physics, nuclear pumped lasers, nuclear batteries, neutron activation analysis, radioisotope production, nuclear reactor kinetics, coupled core kinetics, and neutron pulse propagation.”


Reddit AMA with students and stakeholders

In September 2020, the micro-reactor team hosted a Reddit AMA to field questions from people interested in the project. You can read the full archived AMA here.


University hosts forum to discuss the role of nuclear on campus


Letter of Intent to NRC

UIUC submitted a letter of intent to the NRC to apply for a license to construct a research and test reactor facility on the UIUC campus, the first step in the NRC’s two-step license process.


NRC holds first public meeting with UIUC

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted a public meeting to discuss the future application's regulatory engagement plan for the UIUC construction permit.


UIUC completes a Formal Memorandum of Understanding with USNC

In November 2021, UIUC completed a Formal Memorandum of Understanding with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.


UIUC submits Regulatory Engagement Plan to NRC

In December 2021, UIUC submitted a Regulatory Engagement Plan to the U.S. NRC, as the next part of the licensing process.


AECOM joins UIUC to write Environmental Impact Statement

In June 2022, AECOM began work with UIUC to assemble the first draft EIS for submission to the NRC.


104(c) Licensing Pathway White Paper submitted to NRC

In late June 2022, the University of Illinois submitted a white paper to the NRC outlining the project team's request to follow the 104(c) Licensing Pathway for Research and Test Reactors.


Public meeting held with NRC to discuss report

UIUC held a public meeting with the NRC for pre-submittal discussion of “Fuel Qualification Methodology” Topical Report for updated technology design.


University of Illinois provides RAI responses to NRC

December 2023 - The University closed out the year by provides responses to the NRC's Request for Additional Information on the “Applicability of Nuclear Regulatory Commission Regulation” Topical Report.


UIUC provides responses to NRC on new report

UIUC provides RAI responses to NRC on “Event Sequence Identification and SSC Safety Classification Methodology” Topical Report.


Public meeting with NRC held on Topical Report

UIUC held a public meeting with the NRC regarding the “Applicability of Nuclear Regulatory Commission Regulation” Topical Report.


Safety Evaluation provided by the NRC

In March of 2024, a Safety Evaluation was provided by NRC for “Event Sequence Identification and SSC Safety Classification Methodology” Topical Report – one of the key evaluations for the reactor's progress.


Safeguards Protection Plan Approved

March 2024 - Safeguards Information (Modified Handling) Protection Plan Approved.


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