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[cdn-nucl-l] Fancy an afternoon at the reactor? Beauty, nuke!
Posted in the Australian Sun-Herald on August 25, 2002 and at:
When in Australia...
Fancy an afternoon at the reactor? Beauty, nuke!
By Fia Cumming
August 25 2002
Forget the museum or the art gallery, the hottest destination for
Sydneysiders seeking an educational outing is the Lucas Heights nuclear
Perhaps influenced by The Simpsons, the reactor became the
fastest-growing major tourist attraction in NSW in 2001, with a fourfold
increase in visitor numbers.
The surge in interest has continued this year, with tours booked out
more than two months in advance.
Local residents and conservation groups still view it with hatred, but
many others are just curious.
After years of protecting the reactor behind tight security, the
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) changed
tack last year and opened the doors.
The open days in August and September were expected to attract about
3,500 people, but more than 10,000 people poured through the steel
Tour groups from schools and community groups or people using nuclear
medicine also rose by 40 per cent last year, to 4,600.
The total figure for 2001 of about 15,000 was more than four times the
3,300 visitors to the reactor in 2000.
ANSTO spokesman Peter Russell said interest had been fuelled by
publicity about the plans for a new reactor.
But with no plans for an open day this year, many will have to wait
another year to see inside. Mr Russell said some visitors were surprised
they did not have to wear a protective suit to guard against radiation
in the reactor.
"You go through a lock, close the door and then you go through another
door and that's it," he said.
"You have to remember that the actual reactor is about half the size of
a dining table - in terms of research reactors it is the smallest in the
While the average US nuclear power plant would use about 190 tonnes of
nuclear fuel, Lucas Heights gets by with only 7kg.
Construction of a replacement for the ageing reactor was put on hold
last month to allow investigation of a geological fault line underneath
The project has also been dogged by doubts about the financial viability
of the main contractor, INVAP of Argentina.
Well-known scientist Ben Selinger supported the construction of the new
reactor last week, saying it would be both safe and essential for the
future of Australian science.
Professor Selinger said nuclear technology had improved enormously in
the past 30 years and Australia could not afford to be without its own
He said the dangers of radiation from power plants had been greatly