Promoting Nuclear Safety in Research Reactors

IAEA Activities Essential for Delivery of Essential Services

Inside a Triga Mark II research reactor in Vienna, Austria.

Research reactors promote scientific innovation and produce life-saving isotopes. However, their beneficial applications are only possible by ensuring that nuclear safety is enforced at the highest standards in research reactor facilities around the world. The IAEA works with Member States to enhance safety in research reactors worldwide by supporting training programmes, conducting onsite missions, and by helping Member States share information and best practices with each other.

Code of Conduct on Safety of Research Reactors

The Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors is the key document promoting the safety of research reactors. The Code's objective is to assure a high level of nuclear safety in research reactors worldwide. This international agreement establishes "best practice" guidelines for the regulatory supervision, siting, design, construction, operation and utilization and decommissioning of research reactors.

"Ensuring effective application of the Code and the supporting IAEA Safety Standards is the overarching element of the Agency's strategy for strengthening research reactor safety," said Hassan Abou Yehia, Head of the IAEA Research Reactor Safety Section.

"While the Code is now widely known and becomes the principal reference for management of research reactor safety, there remains a need for continued assistance to Member States to ensure the highest level of safety based on the provisions of the Code and the relevant Safety Standards," he added.

The approval of the Code in 2004 strongly conveyed IAEA Member States' determination to address the challenges and concerns presented by ageing of research reactors around the world. The Code of Conduct covered a gap in the Convention on Nuclear Safety, adopted in the early 1990s, which did not include research reactors.

INSARR Missions

Upon request from Member States, the IAEA organizes missions to assess research reactor safety and provide the national authority recommendations and suggestions to enhance safety. The Integrated Safety Assessments of Research Reactors (INSARR) are peer review missions that cover all safety areas of research reactors.

"INSARR missions provide an independent safety review by an international team of experts and support the involved reactors to resolve the identified safety issues," said Amgad Shokr, Senior Safety Officer at the IAEA Research Reactor Safety Section.

More than one hundred INSARR missions were implemented since 2006. These missions were also good occasion to help the Member States to validate their self-assessments of the application of the Code of Conduct and Safety Standards. The INSARR missions are also an efficient tool to get feedback for improving IAEA Safety Standards and to adapt the Agency's activities to the needs of Member States.

Expert Support

Publishing safety standards and technical guidelines are some of the IAEA's core activities. Reference texts are also produced for research reactor operators to ensure a high level of nuclear safety in research reactors. Additionally, IAEA training workshops provide a fora for operators and regulators to exchange experience and share knowledge and information. The workshops also provide practical guidance to improve nuclear and radiation safety.

The IAEA's activities in research reactor safety make sure that these facilities can continue to deliver essential products, without posing any danger to health and the environment.

Last update: 17 November 2014