US-China Agreement Advances Conversion of Small Research Reactors to Low Enriched Uranium Fuel

21 September 2010 |The conversion of Miniature Neutron Source Reactors (MNSR) to use Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel made important progress last week when an agreement between the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) and the US's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) was signed in Beijing. The agreement paves the way for the set-up of a Zero Power Testing Facility in China, a key ingredient in the conversion of MNSRs to LEU fuel.

MNSR Signing

Signing the Contract for a Zero Power Testing Facility to support the conversion of MNSRs to LEU.

IAEA representative Ray Sollychin was asked to open the 17 September signing ceremony, since the IAEA's Research Reactor Section has provided assistance in facilitating discussions that led to the completion of the agreement. The signing was also witnessed by representatives of US Department of Energy (DOE) and CIAE executives, as well as representatives from MNSR-operator states around the world.

Prior to the signing of the agreement, technical representatives from the IAEA, China, the US and five other states operating MNSRs participated in a technical meeting of the IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) on 'Conversion of MNSR to LEU'. Held from 13-15 September, the meeting was hosted by the CIAE, who design and supply MNSRs. In addition to current MNSR operators participating, representatives from Sudan and the Philippines observed the technical meeting, as both states are considering building a research reactor.

The meeting outcomes included a decision to finalize the CRP and establish an MNSR Working Group in 2011. The Working Group will include MNSR operators, designers, and stakeholders, and is primarily intended to coordinate activities and decision-making as MNSRs around the world are converted to LEU fuel and irradiated HEU fuel is repatriated to China. The scope of the Working Group may expand in the future to include exchange of information and experience in reactor utilization, maintenance, code upgrading, equipment and facility upgrading, training and R&D applications.

For more information about the US-China agreement, MNSRs, or research reactor conversion to LEU fuel, contact the Research Reactor Section at