DOST-PNRI starts commissioning of PRR-1 SATER, PH's sole nuclear reactor training facility

After 34 years with no operating nuclear facility, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) starts the Philippine Research Reactor-1 Subcritical Assembly for Training, Education, and Research (PRR-1 SATER) on Monday, June 20.

The fuel is being lowered into the core by PNRI’s nuclear reactor staff, guided by a digital monitor. (Photo courtesy of DOST-PNRI / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to DOST-PNRI, PRR-1 SATER is the country’s sole nuclear reactor training facility.

The agency said that it began loading of TRIGA nuclear fuel in the core of PRR-1 SATER, signaling the start of its nuclear commissioning.

The TRIGA fuel is a uranium zirconium hydride alloy manufactured by the General Atomics from the United States and is well-known for its inherent safety.

PRR-1 SATER Project leader Dr. Alvie Astronomo shows to Rep. Mark Cojuangco a sample of nuclear fuel rods, similar to what was used in today’s reactor fueling. Cojuangco is one of the main advocates for nuclear power in the country. (Photo courtesy of DOST-PNRI / MANILA BULLETIN)

DOST-PNRI stated that the PRR-1 facility was shut down in 1988, leaving the country with no operating nuclear facility for the last 34 years. The commissioning of the PRR-1 SATER is a milestone for the country as the facility will provide significant support in re-establishing nuclear capabilities in the Philippines.

The PRR-1 SATER has the following objectives as a nuclear facility:

  • Support nuclear manpower development
  • Accommodate local access to an operating nuclear facility
  • Train reactor operators, users, and regulators
  • Engage stakeholders in nuclear and reactor engineering
  • Repurpose available resources of the historical PRR-1 facility

Once commissioned, the facility operators will apply for full operating license as it opens its doors to the research and academic community who will be given access the facility.

The project was first conceptualized in 2014, but actual work in the facility began in 2017. It is expected to be fully operational by 2023. While not yet fully operational, the facility will be open for technical visits and awareness seminars on nuclear science and technology.

Classified as subcritical and with zero-power configuration, the PRR-1 SATER is inherently safe as a facility for nuclear education and research. It will support PNRI-initiated nuclear education programs that are being offered in UP Diliman since 2019 and Mapua University since 2020.

DOST-PNRI’s famous dome which is actually the nuclear reactor with a zero-power configuration and can only be used for training and education purposes, and not for power generation. (Photo courtesy of DOST-PNRI / MANILA BULLETIN)

Nuclear-related courses that can be supported by the facility include nuclear reactor engineering, neutron physics, reactor physics, nuclear safety, and radiation dosimetry, among others.