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The research reactor at Prater is scheduled to continue operating until 2040

The research reactor at Prater is scheduled to continue operating until 2040

Sciences

Austria's only research reactor is guaranteed to have a lifespan until at least 2040. In fact, the contract, with an option to extend, was to transport the fuel rods to the United States next year. But they remain because the fuel elements have only burned to a small degree.

The real core is located behind two and a half meters of heavy concrete. More than 80 fuel elements power the TRIGA Mark-II research reactor. Each contains 38 grams of uranium 235, and is only slightly enriched at 20 percent.

Extending the contract with an American company

The reactor is used to generate neutrons, explains Andreas Muselik, head of the Atomic Institute at the Vienna University of Technology (TU): “These neutrons can be used in a wide range of fields: basic research, analyzes in archaeology, and atomic research.” The clocks – the essential clocks – that we need in vehicle technology for self-driving cars.

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The reactor's maximum continuous output is 250 kilowatts, not a lot of power, which is why the fuel rods can still be used until 2040; The research reactor has been in operation since 1962.

Don't be afraid of radiation

According to the Vienna University of Technology, flight crews receive more cosmic radiation than reactor workers at the Atomic Institute. However, a certain level of monitoring is needed, not only for the researchers, but also for the reactor itself.

Reactor operator Clemens Trauner described his daily routine in the “Wien aktuell” interview with “Echt Nah”: “I sit there all day and look at the monitors. It may sound boring, but in reality there is always something happening, because for me everything comes together. There are so-called radiation certificates that you have to enter, sign and verify and this means that you know what is currently happening in the reactor and which samples are currently being irradiated.

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Founded in 1958 as an inter-university institute, the Atomic Institute was inaugurated in 1962 at its current site in the Prater with the ceremonial commissioning of the Triga Mark 2 research reactor.