|Official name||South African Fundamental Atomic Research Installation 1|
Planning started in 1960 and construction occurred between 1961 and 1965. In March 1965 the reactor was commissioned and initially operated at 6.75 MW, a limitation imposed by the capacity of the secondary cooling circuit. Output was increased to 20 MW in 1968 after the secondary cooling circuit was upgraded.
Initially the reactor was fueled with HEU supplied by the United States, but in 1975 exports of HEU from the USA to South Africa was suspended in protest of South Africa's nuclear weapons program and the construction of the Valindaba Y-plant. In order to conserve the available fuel supply, reactor output was reduced to 5 MW and operating hours were dramatically reduced 
In 1979 the Valindaba Y-plant started producing 45% HEU and in 1981 the first fuel assemblies from Valindaba were made available to fuel SAFARI-1. Operating hours were increased, but power was kept at 5 MW until 1993 when it was increased to 10 MW and eventually 20 MW due to the commercialisation of NECSA operations.
The reactor was shut down for repairs in 1988 after a water leak was detected in the pool.
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