Ghanaian reactor at full power after fuel conversion

11 August 2017

Ghana's research reactor has achieved full power operation following its conversion to run on low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of highly-enriched uranium (HEU). It is the first of five such Chinese-supplied reactors outside of China to be converted.

Ghana research reactor restart - 460  (CIAE)
China's ambassador to Ghana was among those who witnessed GHARR-1 attaining full capacity using LEU fuel (Image: CIAE)

The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) announced today that the Ghana Research Reactor, known as GHARR-1, achieved full power with LEU in its core at 12.27pm yesterday.

GHARR-1 is a low-power research reactor with maximum thermal power level of 30kW. It is a commercial type of the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) designed, manufactured and constructed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy. Originally fuelled with 90.2% HEU, the reactor is designed for use in universities, hospitals and research institutes, mainly for neutron activation analysis, production of short-lived radioisotopes, education and manpower development. The GHARR-1 reactor - located at the National Nuclear Research Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) - started operations in December 1994.

In 2006, efforts were initiated to convert Chinese-designed MNSRs from HEU to LEU fuel. The GHARR-1 is the first of five such MNSR reactors outside of China eligible for conversion and fuel return to China. Under a project involving China and Ghana, as well as the USA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the HEU core was removed from the reactor in August 2016 and a new LEU core installed. This operation was completed last month.

The CIAE said the project to convert the Ghanaian MNSR to LEU has created "strong technical support and valuable experience" for converting other MNSRs abroad.

The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration is cooperating with Nigeria, China and the IAEA to convert Nigeria's MNSR in 2018.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News