Ten-year anniversary for Australia’s Opal

18 August 2016

Australia’s Open Pool Australian Light-water (Opal) nuclear research reactor at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto), marked its tenth anniversary on 15 August. AUD168.8m ($129.6m) facility at Lucas Heights, which started operation in August 2006, was the world's first research reactor to use only low enriched uranium fuel and target plates. It is used primarily for the production of radioisotopes for medicine and industry. Opal currently delivers the base material for more than 10,000 patient doses of nuclear medicine sent across Australia each week.

IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said in a speech in Sydney: "Demand for our support in areas such as human health, food and agriculture, industry, electricity generation and countless other areas is constantly growing." He added: "We rely on the support of trusted partners such as Ansto in delivering that assistance."

Australia was one of the top 10 donors to the IAEA's technical cooperation programme in 2015. The agency said Australia has assisted it in launching projects in new IAEA member states in areas such as food security, human health, environmental monitoring and ground water resource management.

Ansto CEO Adi Paterson said: "Global demand for potentially lifesaving molybdenum 99 (Mo-99) is increasing, while the reactors capable of supplying it are shutting down, and from next year Ansto will step up to help fill that gap." Opal "is in the final phases of construction, and will ramp up to a full scale production of 10 million doses a year – 25% of world supply – by the end of 2017", he added.

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