The Reed College Reactor Facility has been used for research and educational projects in the Portland area since its establishment in 1968. These programs have been an important part of the educational picture of the region. The Reed College Reactor is a TRIGA Mark I reactor at the bottom of a 25-foot-deep tank. It uses zirconium hydride/uranium hydride fuel elements in a circular grid array. The uranium fuel is enriched to 20 percent uranium-235. The reactor is surrounded by a graphite ring which minimizes neutron leakage by reflecting neutrons back into the core.

The Reed Reactor Facility is primarily used for instruction, research, and analysis, especially trace-element analysis. Since the initial startup, the reactor, in addition to providing student research opportunities, has worked to educate the surrounding community on the principles of nuclear engineering and energy.

The reactor and associated facilities are used to some extent in chemistry and physics courses, but they are mostly used for research projects. The reactor is operated almost entirely by undergraduate students who are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This allows them to conduct their own research and to be hired by the facility to conduct irradiations for educational organizations, private research organizations, and for industrial applications. A one year non-credit seminar is open to all interested students to prepare them for the licensing examination. Students and faculty from other institutions are also welcome to attend the seminar.

The facility provides tours and labs for middle school, high school and college classes as well as other special groups in the Portland area. The facility is also available to advanced classes and other special programs such as the Talented And Gifted (TAG) student program of the Portland Public Schools and the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program which provides special experiences for minorities and disadvantaged middle and high school students.