Research Reactor Section
Utilization & Applications:
For an introduction to the coalition's activities, please read the brochure 'The Caribbean Research Reactor Coalition: Partnering for Progress'.
Caribbean Research Reactor Coalition:
The IAEA, in line with its statute and mandatory responsibilities to support its member states in the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in concert with global nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear material security objectives, provides support for regional and international cooperation involving the research reactor community and its stakeholders, including customers and users.
Research reactors continue to play a key role in the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy and are expected to make important contributions in the next decades in the further development of advanced nuclear fission reactors and fuel cycles, fusion, high energy physics, basic research, materials science, nuclear medicine, and biological sciences. However, it is evident that many research reactors are underutilized and are faced with critical issues related to their sustainability as well as important decisions concerning their future operation.
Greatly enhanced international and regional cooperation appears to be an attractive means not only to assure the survival of the most capable reactors, but also as a means to provide high-quality research reactor capabilities to individual countries which do not need, or cannot afford, to maintain and operate a research reactor on its own. Enhanced cooperation should also serve to improve access of potential customers to the international research reactor community and to improve the quality of services provided to customers.
The Agency has been awarded a grant by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) to coordinate a two-year pilot project on Research Reactor Coalitions and Regional Centres of Excellence. The IAEA Board of Governors encouraged regional cooperation and networking among research reactors in its March 2007 meeting under the agenda item on nuclear science, technology, and applications.
The IAEA is serving as a facilitator to promote formulation and implementation of specific ideas for regional and international coalitions, focused on different thematic or regional areas, in order to improve sustainability and at the same time assisting reactors to meet high standards of nuclear material security, and to conform to international non-proliferation and threat reduction trends. This includes additional efforts to improve strategic and business planning, expand awareness of potential customers, and increase contacts between prospective customers and research reactor service providers.
This effort aims to encourage the formation of voluntary, subscription-based, self-financed coalitions of research reactor operators (which may include other participants, sponsors, etc.) and centres of excellence that will, among other objectives, provide shared access to high-quality, state-of-the-art scientific and experimental research, training, and irradiation services to countries without research reactors.
The IAEA organized a meeting at Centro Nuclear – ININ, Mexico, 30-31 October 2007 between the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Nucleares (ININ, Mexico), the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS, Jamaica), and the Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería (INGEOMINAS, Colombia). This meeting discussed the possible development of a coalition of research reactors in the Caribbean region to jointly provide research reactor services to governmental and commercial customers, especially in the area of neutron activation analysis for agricultural, environmental, industrial/natural resources and other applications.
A protocol was concluded at this meeting which included preliminary agreement on formation of a research reactor coalition between the three organizations and including the Technical University Wien - Atominsitut.
At the meeting discussion took place regarding strengthening and expanding existing cooperative arrangements between ICENS–ININ and ICENS-INGEOMINAS with the objective of establishing a Caribbean research reactor coalition. It was agreed that a collaborative/cooperative venture involving the three reactors could work in a collective manner to comprehensively assess the market for various irradiation services and products and to efficiently meet the needs of nuclear science users throughout the region.
Such services could include:
- neutron activation analysis for a variety of end-users/uses,
- production of radioisotopes,
- dosimetry and calibration services, and
- training for radiation protection and health physics.
It was agreed that an important aspect of a coalitions would be in regard to quality assurance and quality control practices that enable all participants to achieve common standards. The mid-term target should be achievement of ISO certification of the participating facilities in those areas of cooperation. Peer reviews, visits between facilities, and short-term staff exchanges to share best practices and inter-comparison measurement exercises were also proposed.
The IAEA endeavored to provide technical support for such activities within the framework of various Agency activities, including the possibility to arrange a regional seminar or workshop at one of the facilities of the coalition for countries and users from the region in order to introduce and publicize the capabilities of the coalition.
The participants agreed that there is strong merit in the proposal for a Caribbean research reactor coalition, and that further internal discussions would to take place within the research reactors/institutes and with appropriate governmental authorities for:
- legal and administrative requirements,
- intellectual property rights,
- access by third parties, and
- other issues as may be determined.
It was noted that there are existing bilateral agreements between Colombia, Jamaica, and Mexico that could be used as a basis to implement coalition activities. The parties agreed to determine what form of agreement between institutes may be necessary and will inform the IAEA later in regard to conclusion of an appropriate written arrangement for the coalition.
A number of other concrete activities were agreed in the protocol in regard to initial activities of the coalition.