Opal conducts self-review of safety

14 December 2021

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has undertaken a review of safety and security performance at the Opal research reactor, saying its future plans are "very much anchored on high standards."

The Opal research reactor at ANSTO's Lucas Heights site (Image: ANSTO)

"Challenging our approach is something we do well at Ansto," said Opal Reactor Manager David Vittorio.

The review looked at Opal managers' performance on 15 safety factors and 19 security factors over the last ten years "to give a view on future performance", ANSTO said. "The outcome provided a strong vote of confidence in Australia’s expertise in nuclear activities and research," it stated in an announcement of the work.

Vittorio said the review "has led to an action plan that will ensure Opal continues to maintain its position as one of the world's best multi-purpose research reactors." More specifically, “the report considered the performance over the past decade and how to sustain and enhance the safety, security and reliability of the reactor over the next decades."

ANSTO said it followed an approach advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Period Safety and Security Review.

ANSTO CEO Shaun Jenkinson said the oganisation "is the custodian of Australia's most significant national infrastructure for research, and Opal, as the only nuclear reactor in the country, is the centrepiece." 

Jenkinson added, “Our future plans to progress cutting-edge developments in nuclear medicine production, research, and partnerships with industry, are very much anchored by the high standards achieved through the safe and secure operation of Opal.”

Opal is a 20 MWt open-pool research reactor that started up at ANSTO's Lucas Heights site, near Sydney, in 2007. It was designed by Invap of Argentina and is the design reference for the Brazil Multipurpose Reactor under construction in that country as well as the RA-10 reactor under construction in Argentina, although those units will be larger at 30 MWt.

In September, the Australian government announced AUD30 million (USD12.8 million) would be spent on the design of a new nuclear medicine manufacturing facility at Lucas Heights. It would replace a facility which is said to be nearing the end of its service life, but has an important role providing up to 12,000 doses of nuclear medicine annually.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News