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Fun fair nuclear reactor gets a change in fuel rods

Austrian officials are starting the process of changing the fuel rods at the country's only working nuclear reactor - located next door to the Prater amusement park in the capital Vienna.

Although Austria is officially a nuclear free country there is one exception in the form of the Atominstitut nuclear reactor that is operated for research purposes by the technical University in Vienna (TU) - and located in the centre of the city.

During the process of the rods being changed access is being restricted to the property and the number of lectures is also reduced.

The only visible sign of the process taking place to external observers is that a crane and a lifting platform have been set up in the Prater in preparation for the switch.

According to a TU spokesman the swap will take place at some stage in the next few weeks and is a routine step that needs to happen in order to keep the reactor operational. They added that without the changing of the fuel elements this year the reactor would have to be shut down by 2016.

The Atominstitut was founded in 1958 and moved to its current location at the Prater in 1962 when the TRIGA Mark II Research reactor was opened. Worldwide around 50 of such reactors are in operation - 10 in Europe.

It has a maximum output of 250 Kilowatt (kW), in comparison Temelin has 3,000 Megawatt, making it 12,000 times more powerful.

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