12-08-2006 – Criticality achieved in Australian, INVAP-built OPAL reactor : Australia´s OPAL reactor, built by INVAP in the premises of Lucas Heights, NSW, reached critical status for the first time on August 12, 2006.
Australia´s OPAL reactor, built by INVAP in the premises of Lucas Heights, NSW, reached critical status for the first time on August 12, 2006. This is the first stage of the effective functioning of the reactor. Once the fuel is in place, control bars are slowly lifted, and a selfsustained nuclear reaction with neutron emmission begins to take place at a controlled rate.
The uranium silicide fuel was provided by the Argentine Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and was loaded very recently after the Australian Nuclear Control Agency, ARPANSA, gave the go-ahead to operate the reactor.
Criticality allows the performance of low-power tests, and this is the first step of a lengthy process of power increase and measurement of diverse yield and safety parameters. Full power of the OPAL reactor – 20 MW – is expected to be achieved later this year. Official inauguration is scheduled to take place in April, 2007.