The research reactor at Prater will operate until 2040

Science

The lifetime of Austria’s only research reactor is guaranteed until at least 2040. In fact, the contract, with an option to extend, would have stipulated that the fuel rods would be shipped to the United States next year. But the fuel elements remain intact because only a small amount of fuel is burned.

The real core is behind two and a half meters of heavy concrete. More than 80 fuel elements power the Triga Mark-II research reactor. Most contain 38 grams of uranium-235 each and are only 20 percent enriched.

The contract with the American company has been extended

The reactor is used to produce neutrons, explains Andreas Musilek, head of the Nuclear Institute at the Vienna University of Technology (TU): “These neutrons can be used in many different areas: basic research, archeological analysis, atomic clocks – central clocks – which are needed in automotive technology for self-driving cars.”

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The reactor has a maximum output of 250 kW, not much power, which is why fuel rods can be used until 2040. The research reactor has been operating since 1962.

Don’t be afraid of radiation

According to the Vienna University of Technology, flight crews receive more cosmic radiation than workers in nuclear reactors. Nevertheless, a certain level of monitoring is required, not only by the researchers but also by the reactor itself.

Reactor operator Clemens Trunner described his daily routine in a “Vienna Today” interview for “HT Na”: “I sit there all day and look at the monitor. It may sound boring, but actually there’s always something going on, because for me everything is coming together. The radiation certificates say. There are so-called, which you have to enter, sign and check, which means you know what is currently happening in the reactor and which samples are currently being irradiated.

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The Nuclear Institute was established in 1958 as an inter-university institution and opened in 1962 with the ceremonial commissioning of the TRIGA Mark II research reactor at its current location in Prater.

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