The High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR) Control Room

Lucas Heights, Australia | C.1958

Photo Credit: Brett Patman

Back in the day when it was fully operational, this modernly-fashioned chair had a trained professional warming its seat 24 hours a day–and we think there are enough gadgets and gizmos here to keep one occupied for most of them. In this compact control room, Australia’s lone nuclear reactor was closely watched all the way up until 2007, when it was decommissioned in favor of a newer model. Though now quiet, this room and its reactor are known for creating more than just powerful energy. 

The High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR) was constructed in the suburbs of Sydney in 1958 and was the first of its kind built in the southern hemisphere. Opened at a time when nuclear power was still a brand new technology, the HIFAR was meant to mark the beginning of a new era in Australian energy, part of a grand plan to build over six reactors in Australia. However, with the dangers of nuclear power becoming more known worldwide, HIFAR was never used for energy production but instead for medical research and radio-pharmaceuticals. 

Being the only of one its kind on the continent has its perks–like the title of the best nuclear control room in the country. With nuclear reactions carrying such a powerful and dangerous force, having the optimal control room to monitor HIFAR was immensely important. With a control panel layout reminiscent of a retro submarine, one’s eyes immediately are immediately drawn to the red center button labeled “Scram.” Used to lower control rods into the reactor, it’s not used to gripe at protons and electrons, yelling at them, “Hey! Get Outta Here!”. 

Decommissioned after almost 50 years of production, the HIFAR helped produce thousands of medical materials in Australia and worldwide that were used for research and combating cancer. This fact alone makes that 24-hour desk monitoring worth it in our book. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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