Multi-Purpose Research Reactor (MPR)

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Multi-Purpose Research Reactor

The SAFARI-1 Research Reactor has played a pivotal role in the development of South Africa’s nuclear infrastructure and research over the past 56 years. Situated on the Necsa site, the reactor is a 20 MW (thermal) multi-purpose tank-in-pool reactor that achieved first criticality on 18 March 1965. Currently, SAFARI-1 is almost fully utilised for the production of Molybdenum-99 and other radio-isotopes. Molybdenum-99 is the raw material used to produce Technecium-99m, a key medical isotope used in excess of 40 million nuclear medical procedures globally per annum.

In September 2021, Cabinet approved the setting up of the Multi-Purpose Research Reactor (MPR) project which will succeed the current SAFARI-1. The MPR facility will continue to provide irradiation and isotope production services, beam line facilities and other research capabilities. The underway project also presents the opportunity to replace the ageing existing facilities with the latest technologies and innovations, bringing new levels of safety and efficiency with cutting edge products, services and research capabilities.  As the transition from SAFARI-1 to the MPR takes place, the production of Molybdenum-99 and other radio-isotopes will continue to run smoothly.

Technical information

A research reactor is a type of nuclear reactor, generally of low power level compared to power reactors that is mainly used to produce neutrons. They are also called non-power reactors, which means that they are not used to produce electricity, generate heat, or power maritime propulsion like power reactors are. The neutrons produced by a research reactor can be used for neutron scattering, non-destructive testing, analysis and testing of materials, production of radioisotopes, research, and public outreach and education. Research reactors that produce radioisotopes for medical or industrial use are sometimes called isotope reactors.

The new MPR facility will be a Research Reactor with an envisaged power level of 20-30 MW. The facility will contain various irradiation facilities for material testing and isotope production as well as beam line facilities that will utilize the neutrons from the reactor for many different neutron beam experiments and services. It is envisage that in addition to the reactor, there will be various support facilities such as a cutting edge beam hall with an array of neutron beam research and analysis devices, a fuel and material testing facility and a fuel fabrication facility.  

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