ANSTO confident in reactor safety and security review

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

A review of the safety and security of the country’s only nuclear reactor has been submitted to regulators as the facility gears up for more work under Australia’s new defence alliance and nuclear submarines plan.

On Monday, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) announced it had completed the largest coordinated safety and security review of the OPAL multi-purpose research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

ANSTO said it was confident the independent review, which included 15 safety factors, 19 security factors, and global assessments of safety and security, would give “great assurances” for ongoing operations.

Picture: ANSTO/OPAL reactor

“These outstanding results are a testament to Australia’s world-leading position in nuclear research and science, and the deep expertise and experience of ANSTO’s people,” said ANSTO chief executive Shaun Jenkinson.

“Our future plans to progress cutting-edge developments in nuclear medicine production, research, and partnerships with industry, are very much anchored by the high standards achieved through the safe and secure operation of OPAL.”

The national nuclear organisation is currently working with the new Submarine Task Force project to determine the type of nuclear submarines Australia will build as part of the new AUKUS alliance, and how they will be developed and maintained.

ANSTO noted one of its US peer reviewers had considered the latest review equivalent to the high standards required in the US for a relicensing agreement.

“The report considered the performance over the past decade and how to sustain and enhance the safety, security and reliability of the reactor over the next decades,” said ANSTO Opal Reactor manager, David Vittorio.

“Challenging our approach is something we do well at ANSTO, and as with any review, this one has led to an action plan that will ensure OPAL continues to maintain its position as one of the world’s best multipurpose research reactors.”

The review has been submitted to Australian regulators ARPANSA, which covers safety matters, and ASNO, which covers security matters.

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