Green light for Opal restart

07 May 2008

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) announced on 5 May that it had been given the go-ahead to restart the Opal research reactor following approval on 1 May by the country's nuclear safety regulator for it to use a modified fuel design, altered to prevent dislodgement of nuclear fuel plates. The Open Pool Australian Light-water (Opal) reactor began commissioning in 2006, reaching full power during November that year. However, it was shut down in July 2007 following the partial displacement of some fuel plates. Ansto's CEO, Ian Smith, said: "It has been a frustrating time for all involved. However, it was important that these painstaking steps were taken to ensure that Opal can recommence operating." He added, "We are hoping that full power of 20 MWt will be achieved in a few weeks' time, but this has to be done gradually. It's not just a case of flicking a switch." Meanwhile, Ansto has announced that Dr Smith has decided not to accept an extension to his contract and will leave office on 16 May following four years as the organisation's CEO. He plans to return to New Zealand with his family. Ron Cameron, currently chief of operations, will act as CEO until Smith's successor is appointed.

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