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University of Missouri hopes new nuclear reactor will attract economic growth, top talent to Columbia


The University of Missouri presented plans for a new research reactor to economic leaders in the region in the hopes of getting them on board with the potential economic growth it could bring.

The University of Missouri's Research Reactor, or MURR, is preparing for an upgrade. MU announced an initiative in March to make a bigger research reactor with the capability to create more isotopes, used in cancer-fighting research and diagnosis.

The project will take 10 to 12 years and cost around $1 billion.

"As you are a cancer doctor having the ability to do research in a facility the only facility in the United States that has the right composition to make these materials, it's a pretty powerful tool for bringing people here," said Sarah Chinniah, MU's vice president of business operations and strategic initiatives, while she presented the project at the REDI meeting Wednesday.

The proposed NextGen MURR would be built in south Columbia off Discovery Ridge. In a March news release, Interim Director of MURR Matt Stanford said the central location of MURR allows for quick transportation of the isotopes to the patients who need it. The Discovery Ridge location puts the new research reactor closer to the Columbia Regional Airport.

"Having access to transportation hubs is very important to the overall economic impact of what they're trying to accomplish. And so, I think being close to the airport and having a viable commercial airport nearby is really helpful," said Matt Jenne with the Airport Advisory Board.

The Regional Economic Development Inc. board, more commonly referred to as REDI, started the first of its On The Road meetings at the NextGen Precision Health building on the university's campus Wednesday morning.

"We'll be creating new jobs," Jenne said. "We'll be increasing the lifestyle for our community because we'll have more better jobs for our community, which then leads to having people that can spend more money so then that money can be spent around the community and it really just increases the level of our community."

There is only one other research reactor like MURR in the world. In February 2022, the reactor in Europe was turned off for unscheduled maintenance, requiring MURR to ramp up production.

MURR is only turned off for 12 hours a week. Each week, MURR produces between 1,000 and 2,000 patient doses of medical isotopes.

Article Topic Follows: University of Missouri

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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