Utilisation of safari-1 research reactor


NUCLEAR technology is one of the growing technologies in the world used
in various sectors apart from the energy one. Nuclear technology makes
use of radioisotopes in sectors such as: medicine, food and agriculture,
transport, consumer products, mining, industry, water resources and the
environment, and scientific research. Radioisotopes are produced in
nuclear reactors (both research and power reactors) and accelerators

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has a MTR 20MW
tank-in-pool research reactor, SAFARI-1 that is used for radioisotope
production and research purposes.

Radioisotopes produced at SAFARI-1 are processed at NTP isotope
processing facilities and then transported to over 50 countries.
Applications of Radioisotopes

Over 40 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed yearly all
over the world, making the demand for radioisotopes increase with each
year. Nuclear medicine uses radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic

Technetium-99m (Tc-99) is the most commonly used radioisotope in nuclear
medicine, used in over 80% of nuclear medicine procedures. Tc-99 is
produced as a daughter product of Molebdenum-99 (Mo-99). Mo-99 is
produced in research reactors. SAFARI-1 produces about a third of the
world’s Mo-99 supply.

SAFARI-1 irradiates Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Molybdenum plates in its
core to produce Mo-99, the plates are processed at NTP isotopes
facilities and packed into Tc-99 generators (a lead pot enclosing a
glass tube containing the radioisotope) then transported to various
clients. Tc-99m has a short half-life of 66 hrs, thus the Tc generators
contain Mo-99 radioisotope when in transit.

Other uses of radioisotopes in nuclear medicine include sterilization of
medical products using gamma rays from Cobult-60 (Co-60).

Various other isotopes such as: Gadolinium-153 (bone density
measurements), Lutetium-177 (targeted therapy for treatment of cancer
and other diseases), Iridium-192 (brachytherapy to treat tumours),
Samarium-153 (metabolic radiotherapy for the treatment of pain from bone
metastases), Ytterbium-176 (optical fibres, dopant for garnet crystals
in lasers), and Yttrium-90 (Y2O3) (materials coating) are irradiated in
the SAFARI-1 core.

With technology advancing and use of electronic devices on the rise,
high quality semiconductor power devices are on demand. The use of
silicon as a semiconducting material is favoured by various industries.

Neutron Transmutation Doping (NTD) of Silicon is offered at SAFARI-1
using its poolside facility. About 1 ton of Silicon is irradiated each
month and shipped to semiconductor manufacturing companies.

SAFARI-1 is being utilised to help advance human life, be it in the
medical fraternity or industrial fraternity. The benefits of Nuclear
Technology are in our everyday life.

By: Edzani Ratsibi – Women in Nuclear South Africa (WiNSA) Necsa

– CAJ News

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