The Open Pool Australian Light-water reactor (OPAL) is a neutron source used for two main purposes:
- Radioisotope production.
- Scientific research.
The reactor is designed to support neutron-related research. It has two neutron sources with different energy levels:
• Cold neutron source to produce low-energy neutrons.
• Thermal neutron source to produce medium-energy neutrons.
A hot neutron source to produce higher-energy neutrons was planned as a future possibility.
Five assemblies are tangentially placed around the reactor core. Their function is to extract neutrons, which are led by guides. The neutronic guides carry neutrons from the source to the experimental instruments (which can be up to 40 meters from the reactor core) with minimum loss during their transportation.
The reactor manufactures radioisotopes and elements for neutron activation analysis, which are used to take neutronic radiographies and to irradiate materials.
To produce radioisotopes, targets are placed at pre-established positions into the reactor's reflector tank. There are irradiation facilities for general purposes, batch irradiation and large volume production.
The reactor also has a laboratory of silicon doping through neutronic transmutation, and radio protected hot cells where targets are placed, removed and, finally, transfered to the radioisotope production plant.