Challenges Ahead for Use and Management of Research Reactors

IAEA Conference in Chile Focuses on Topical Issues

CEN Lo Aguirre research reactor in Santiago, Chile. (Credit: K. Hansen/IAEA)

The IAEA supported International Conference on Research Reactor Utilization, Safety, Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste Management concluded 14 November in Santiago, Chile. Over 100 experts from across the globe attended the five-day conference. In his address, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security, Mr. Taniguchi Tomihiro, told delegates that the research reactor community has had a long and successful history of both productive and safe operations; however, nearly two-thirds of the world's operating research reactors are now over 30 years old.

"Many of them have been refurbished to meet today's technological standards and safety requirements; however, the challenges associated with the ageing of components, materials and, even the staffs at these facilities continue to be serious issues... Likewise, worldwide attention is focused on the serious erosion in the level of governmental support, management commitment and available resources to the infrastructure necessary for effective research reactor operations," Mr. Taniguchi said.

There are currently around 272 research reactors operating today. The diverse benefits they provide includes everything from creating isotopes for medical diagnoses and treatment, to component testing and controls against environmental pollution.

Mr. Taniguchi said if the scientific research and discoveries from research reactors were to continue, and the benefits for mankind maintained, "then the premises upon which research reactor are built must be reconsidered and brought into the technical, economic, social, realities of today." Read the full statement.

The aim of conference is to foster exchange of information on current research reactor concerns related to safety, operation, utilization, and decommissioning. Participants include reactor operators, designers, managers, users and regulators.

Last update: 11 November 2014