For almost 50 years the High Flux Australian Reactor - HIFAR - was Australia's only multi-purpose research reactor and operated safely and effectively over that time.
It supplied millions of patient doses of nuclear medicine and provided scientists with neutron beams to let them study the structure of materials.
It irradiated hundreds of tonnes of silicon for the international semiconductor industry and supplied radioisotopes for industrial use.
The 10 megawatt HIFAR was a multi-purpose reactor used for research and making radioactive products for Australian nuclear medicine and industry.
With the successful development of ANSTO's new reactor, OPAL, in 2006 there was no continuing need for HIFAR. Accordingly, it was shut down on 30 January 2007. That event heralded the commencement of its decommissioning.
Decommissioning is the process of deactivating and dismantling the reactor and ancillary equipment and the total cost of the process is estimated to be around $50 million. This process will occur over a period of about ten years, with each step being carefully planned and approved by ANSTO's safety regulator, ARPANSA.
The fuel has been removed and fluids drained from the facility. The reactor is presently in a 'care and maintenance' phase during which only non-radioactive equipment may be removed and the reactor kept in a safe state whilst decay of short-lived radioactive materials within the reactor takes place.
The decommissioning of the DIDO reactor in Harwell UK, of which HIFAR is practically a carbon copy, started in 1990 and is due to be completed in 2016, when HIFAR dismantling is scheduled to commence. The HIFAR decommissioning process will take less time than its UK counterpart due to the experience gained from and the expertise of the UK DIDO team's and that of the similar Danish DR3 team which will be utilised during the HIFAR decommissioning process.