OPAL Research Reactor

Australia’s Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor is a state-of-the-art 20 Megawatt reactor that uses low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel to achieve a range of nuclear medicine, research, scientific, industrial and production goals.

OPAL is one of a small number of reactors with the capacity for the commercial production of radioisotopes. This capacity, combined with the open pool design, the use of LEU fuel and the wide range of applications, places OPAL among the best research reactors in the world. 

The heart of the reactor is a compact core of 16 fuel assemblies arranged in a 4x4 array, with five control rods controlling the reactor power and facilitating shutdown. OPAL uses low enriched uranium fuel containing just under 20 per cent uranium-235.

 In terms of security and nuclear safeguards, this is a distinct advantage over earlier research reactors, some of which required enrichment levels as high as 95 per cent uranium-235 (weapons grade).

OPAL’s fuel assemblies (core) are cooled by demineralised light water (ordinary water) and are surrounded by a zirconium alloy ‘reflector’ vessel that contains heavy water. The reflector vessel is positioned at the bottom of a 13-metre-deep pool of light water. The open pool design makes it easy to see and manipulate items inside the reactor pool.

The depth of the water ensures effective radiation shielding of staff working above the pool. The heavy water maintains the nuclear reaction in the core by ‘reflecting’ neutrons back towards the core.

The high energy beta particles from spent nuclear fuel immersed in water gives rise to a blue glow known at Cherenkov radiation. Cerenkov radiation is the emission of light by a charged particle passing through a transparent non-conducting liquid at a speed greater than the speed of light in that material.

Credit: ANSTO

Posted 1 year ago with 368 notes
Tagged:sciencecherenkov radiationnuclear physicsnuclear reactorOPAL reserch reactor

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    Bloody Nukie’s with the coolest looking equipment….. I have a cool microscope.