Neutrons for Science and Industry


by Dr Andrew Venter (Necsa SOC Ltd)

PH HS 3 (Physics Department)


Physics Department

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The SAFARI-1 Research Reactor is a flagship nuclear facility owned and operated by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) on behalf of the South African government. SAFARI-1 has exemplary operational, maintenance and management records. To sustain its capabilities and value addition to stakeholders, a project for its replacement with a Multi-Purpose Reactor (MPR) is actively pursued. This brings with it the prospect of expanded utilisation into fields of scientific and industrial research, primarily through neutron beam line techniques.

SAFARI-1 is a 20 MWth Oak Ridge open pool type materials test reactor commissioned in 1965. From a beam line perspective, it has 6 radial beam tubes that have different utilisation histories. Presently it is equipped with a neutron diffraction facility and a neutron imaging capability under modernisation. The diffraction facility has two fully operational instruments: Neutron powder diffraction, PITSI that facilitates both low and high temperature sample environments for in-situ parametric studies of crystallographic and magnetic phenomena; A modern neutron strain scanner, MPISI equipped with a crystallographic texture capability. The strain capability is extensively benchmarked: VAMAS Ring-and-Plug specimen; High spatial resolution mode using sub-millimeter beams; BrightnESS2 Neutron Quality Lable. The neutron imaging instrument is under modernisation to complement the upgraded instrument suite. The latter has important stakeholders from palaeontology that requires the non-destructive investigation of internal detail of breccia sediments, as well as fossils emanating from the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to the largest concentration of human ancestral remains in the world and located close to SAFARI-1. The instrumental capabilities will be discussed.

Activities in neutron beam applications can be substantially expanded to optimally use the operational availability of SAFARI-1, and to develop the skills base and user community for the planned MPR. A mechanism to facilitate this is the recent consolidation of the beam line techniques under the Beam Lines Centre, to be capacitated as the Neutron Beam Line Centre at the MPR as a partnership between Necsa and relevant government stakeholders as a National large-scale research infrastructure facility in support of their research mandates. Academia is seen as primary driver of this through their integral alignment with the research and infrastructure mandates of relevant government departments. Stakeholder consultations have been initiated to expand the neutron scattering User Community. This comprises international expert topical inputs to the South African community during the SA-SENS 2022 Workshop (South African Stakeholder Engagements on Neutron Scattering), as well as an IAEA led Integrated Research Reactor Utilisation Review (IRRUR) hosted during 2022. All beam line instruments are generally accessible to academia and industry to beneficiate collaborative research opportunities with subject matter experts from diverse engineering and scientific disciplines, nationally and internationally. An overview will be given of recent collaborative projects. We are in the process to setup a fully-fledged User Access Portal.

Neutron scattering facilities feature prominently within the MPR entity to bring modern world-class large-scale research infrastructure to the benefit of academic and industrial research communities through the User Access program. From the onset, it is envisaged that the MPR is equipped with thermal and cold beams extracted to experimental positions in the reactor beam hall, as well as an extended neutron guide hall area. An initial suite of neutron scattering instruments has been selected in consultation with the local User community, assessed against publication outputs from prominent international centres.

Organized by

Dr. Jitae Park
Dr. Theresia Heiden-Hecht
Dr. Apostolos Vagias

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