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Opal reactor

ANSTO's OPAL reactor is one of the world's most advanced and reliable research reactors today. To ensure we can continue operating OPAL safely and reliably and maximise utilisation, ANSTO must regularly carry out maintenance and upgrades.

From Monday 18 March 2024 to Friday 5 July 2024, it is planned that ANSTO will transition OPAL to a shutdown state to undergo necessary upgrades and scheduled maintenance.

A key driver of this planned shutdown is replacing the reactor's unique cold neutron source (CNS), which has an operational life of 15 years. The replacement cold neutron source offers increased scientific performance.

Throughout its life, teams will work to upgrade OPAL’s functionality to improve its performance and ensure that ANSTO can continue delivering scientific, health, and industry benefits to Australia. ANSTO will keep stakeholders informed of the OPAL shutdown before, during, and after maintenance and upgrades are completed.

Project update

12 February 2024

It takes years of meticulous planning to implement a successful nuclear reactor maintenance and upgrade schedule.  Our specialist Engineering, Maintenance and Operations teams began work on this project in 2015. This is a highly complex operation with the team building a full-scale CNS mock-up to assist in the planning and training of supervisors and technicians. Training commenced in July 2022 with each training session taking around 3 months to complete.  

ANSTO’s preparation ahead of this shutdown is well underway and running to plan.

In the below video interview, Dr Anna Sokolova, Instrument Scientist, Small Angle Neutron Scattering, explains the important of the CNS upgrade, what happens at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering and how these instruments are used in wide-ranging research, from COVID-19 to energy, food science, quantum computing and more.

Dr-Anna-Sokolova

Cold Neutron Source Replacement

When OPAL undergoes essential maintenance and upgrades, this will increase the performance of scientific instruments and ensure the reliability of nuclear medicine supply, silicon irradiations, and more.

A critical component of the planned maintenance is replacing the cold neutron source. ANSTO Instrument Scientist – Small Angle Neutron Scattering, Dr Anna Sokolova, explains why the cold neutron source is important.

Watch now
andrew-eltobaji-opal-mockup-facility

Go behind the scenes

It takes years to plan and implement a successful nuclear reactor maintenance and upgrade schedule, and we’re pleased to share this journey with you.

Senior Project Manager of Maintenance & Engineering, Andrew Eltobaji, speaks from our nuclear reactor mock-up facility. He outlines what the cold neutron source does and how ANSTO plans on replacing it.

Watch now

Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening?

From Monday, 18 March 2024, to Friday, 5 July 2024, it is planned that ANSTO’s OPAL reactor will transition to a shutdown state to undergo necessary upgrades and scheduled maintenance. These are the current proposed dates of shutdown. Dates may shift slightly, however, key stakeholders will be notified in advance of any possible date change.

Why does maintenance need to take place?

The OPAL reactor is a complex facility with a unique design. Maintenance and upgrades are business as usual for infrastructure of its kind.

Even when OPAL is most successful, our teams work to upgrade its functionality behind the scenes; this will most likely be the case throughout the entire life of the reactor.

Most maintenance and upgrade activities are performed during regular reactor operation to ensure safe and reliable operation. However, from time to time, there is a need to perform maintenance and upgrade activities whilst the reactor is in a shutdown state.

Will customers be impacted?

Nuclear medicine, irradiations, and research customers will be impacted; however, we are working to minimise disruption wherever possible.

Customers will be contacted by their ANSTO Account Manager with specific information regarding supply and services throughout the shutdown.

What work has ANSTO carried out to date in preparation for the shutdown?

ANSTO has assembled a dedicated project team who have developed a life-size OPAL pool mock-up in Building 2.

The mock-up is designed to be used for training for key project activities. 

The project team has utilised the pool mock-up facility to develop, trial and provide training in the cold neutron source removal and replacement activities.

Is ANSTO working with the regulator on this matter?

Yes, ANSTO is working with the regulator because regulatory approval is required to perform the cold neutron source replacement aspect of the OPAL shutdown.

Will the shutdown improve OPAL’s performance?

Teams continuously work to upgrade OPAL’s functionality to improve its performance and ensure that ANSTO can continue delivering scientific, health, and industry benefits to Australia.

The replacement cold neutron source offers increased scientific performance.

In future communications, we will outline the science behind our new cold neutron source and it’s potential.

Who is undertaking the work?  

A team of almost 20 engineers and nuclear reactor technicians will work to replace the cold neutron source in OPAL as part of the shutdown.