The HFR in Petten (photo:NRG)Restart of the high flux reactor (HFR) operated by NRG at Petten in the Netherlands has been delayed pending further investigation, NRG said on 25 January.

During inspection activities on 21 January prior to the reactor start, a technical defect had been found in a cooling system of the reactor. “NRG cannot yet give an indication of when the reactor will be restarted. NRG has informed Nuclear Medicine Europe (NMEU), the organisation that brings producers and buyers of medical isotopes together, so that the production of medical isotopes can be continued in the best way possible.” NRG said it will report on the status and progress of the investigation to the competent authorities, adding that there is no risk to people or the environment.

The HFR is one of the few reactors in the world that can make nuclear medicines (medical isotopes). Every day, raw materials for nuclear medicines are produced for 30,000 patients. The reactor is also widely used for research into safe and new nuclear energy. The HFR has been in operation since 1961 and in the mid-1920s it is due to be replaced by the new PALLAS reactor, construction of which is in preparation.

The leak was discovered when NRG employees wanted to restart the reactor after it was shut down for a few days for refuelling. "During the inspection, we saw that there was a leak in the ceiling of the basement," explained NRG spokesperson Cora Blankendaal. It was found to be a leak in the cooling system. "We then cut off the water supply," says Blankendaal. "The leak was over, but the problem was of course not solved.” The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS) has also been informed of the leakage. 

Photo: The HFR in Petten (Credit :NRG)