HIFAR (High Flux Australian Reactor) was Australia’s first nuclear reactor. It was built at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (later ANSTO) Research Establishment at Lucas Heights.
Based on the DIDO reactor at Harwell in the UK, it is cooled and moderated by heavy water, and the fuel is enriched uranium metal. There is also a graphite neutron reflector surrounding the core. It is used for research, particularly neutron diffraction experiments, and production of medical and industrial radioisotopes.
HIFAR first went critical at 2am local time on January 26, 1958, and was first run at full power of 10Mw (thermal) in 1960. The initial fuel load was highly enriched uranium, but over the years the enrichment level of new fuel has been steadily reduced, in line with international trends designed to reduce the danger of diversion of research reactor fuel for weapons programs. Of the six DIDO class reactors built including DIDO itself, HIFAR is the last still in operation.
As of 2005, OPAL, a replacement reactor, is under construction on an adjacent site. OPAL which will be served by the same complex of research, isotope production and remote handling laboratories.