ANSTO has completed the largest coordinated safety and security review of the 15-year-old OPAL multi-purpose research reactor as part of a new approach to assessing performance, finding the reactor to be one of the safest and most reliable in world.
It is believed to be the first integrated safety and security review of its type in the world. It uses an approach advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for assessing the safety of research reactors, and Australian regulatory guidance on safety and security for nuclear facilities.
The assessment of performance encompassed 15 safety factors, 19 security factors and global assessments of safety and security – giving great assurance for ongoing operations and reliability.
Known as a Period Safety and Security Review (PSSR), the review interrogated safety and security over the past 10 years, to give a view on future performance. It included assessments of:
- The design for safety and security considering current standards;
- The condition and performance of reactor and security systems;
- Safety and security;
- Operating experience; and
- Culture and organisational effectiveness.
The review has been submitted to both Australian regulators for endorsement – ARPANSA (covering safety matters) and ASNO (covering security matters).
ANSTO CEO, Shaun Jenkinson, commended the dozens of staff who were involved, with their work providing a strong vote of confidence in Australia’s expertise in nuclear activities and research.
“ANSTO is the custodian of Australia’s most significant national infrastructure for research, and OPAL, as the only nuclear reactor in the country, is the centrepiece,” Jenkinson said.
“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.
“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.”
ANSTO Opal reactor manager, David Vittorio, said that the review represents the assessments of important independent international nuclear safety experts.
“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,” Vittorio said.
“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.”
ANSTO’s nuclear safety and security engineer, Kate Lucas, who led the review team, said thorough and methodical assessment underpinned every component of the review.
“The review process was world-leading in itself and has resulted in findings indicating strong performance in safety and security – affirming our place as a global leader in reactor operations for nuclear medicine and science,” Lucas said.
The US peer reviewer is a former branch chief of the Research and Test Reactors Licensing Bench of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, noting that the extent of ANSTO’s review is equivalent to the high standards required in the US for a relicensing agreement.