Internet Reactor Laboratory project Kicks-off in France, Providing Remote Access to Europe and Africa
18 December 2015 | Providing European and African universities with virtual access to research reactor technology, the Internet Reactor Laboratory (IRL) project has now kicked-off in Europe. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in cooperation with the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and with financial support of the U.S. Department of State for the Peaceful Uses Initiative, is implementing this project in Europe and recently held the first training workshop at the CEA.
The IRL project will provide virtual access, via the internet, to research reactors for students pursuing nuclear science and engineering within academic institutions. Even though it does not replace the effectiveness of hands-on training, the IRL is a cost-effective alternative to enhance existing academic curricula by adding practical components for students to better understand theoretical lectures. The project also promotes the utilization of research reactors for nuclear education in the world connecting universities and encouraging international cooperation.
The IAEA and CEA signed an agreement in 2014 in order to establish the legal framework and institute the activities and commitments for the European IRL project. Within this agreement, the ISIS research reactor at the National Institute of Science and Technology (INSTN) of CEA will act as the host reactor of the IRL project.
Starting in 2016, the ISIS research reactor will be transmitting reactor experiments to connected guest institutions in Europe and Africa via the internet. Students, which otherwise would have no access to research reactor facilities for practical training, will experience virtual research reactor laboratories, as part of the academic programmes that they are enrolled in. Interested institutions include the Belarusian State University, Vilnius University (Lithuania), the Tunisian National Center of Nuclear Sciences and Technologies and the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission.
To kick-off the implementation of the IRL in Europe, a training workshop was organized and held by CEA at INSTN in October 2015. The main objective of the workshop was to train the professors from the guest institutions on the technical and pedagogical aspects of the research reactor experiments. These professors will be conducting the remote experiments at their participating guest institutions. Information on the academic curricula and best practices for remote experiments were also discussed.
The IRL project in Latin America was launched earlier this year with a similar training workshop held in cooperation with Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) at the RA-6 research reactor at the Centro Atómico Bariloche (CAB). Both the European and Latin American IRL hosts will begin running remote experiments with participating institutions in 2016.
- By Judy Vyshniauskas and Lenka Kollar, IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy