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Africa Gets its First Host Research Reactor under Internet Reactor Laboratory Initiative

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Research reactors are key tools for nuclear science education and training. (Photo: IAEA Regional Research Reactor School in Thailand, April 2017)

An agreement signed today in Vienna will enable students from Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia and South Africa to get online access to the facilities of a research reactor in Morocco for the purpose of nuclear education and training. Researchers from other African countries are expected to join the project in the future.

Research reactors are vital for the study of modern nuclear analytical techniques, but there are only nine of them operating in Africa. Enabling experts from African countries that do not have a research reactor to access one in another country will be a boost to nuclear science research and development on the continent, said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. The IAEA has facilitated the regional cooperation.

Morocco’s National Centre for Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology (CNESTEN) will make its MA-R1 TRIGA research rector available to students of nuclear engineering and nuclear physics.

“Morocco’s institutions involved in nuclear science and technology make their infrastructure and accumulated knowledge and experience available to other African countries through the IAEA,” said Khalid El Mediouri, Director General of CNESTEN. “This agreement will enhance the cooperation among African developing countries in nuclear education.”

The IAEA’s Internet Reactor Laboratory (IRL) was launched in 2015 to help mainly countries without a research reactor achieve their nuclear capacity building objectives and promote the development of science and technology. Through IRL, a host reactor is connected with university classrooms in other countries, providing practical insight into reactor physics, operation and applications. Students can access the research reactor via the internet for reactor physics experiments.

“IRL is a cost effective way to enhance the learning experience. Students from guest institutions can participate in the reactor experiments, interact with the operating team and receive and analyse real-time data,” said Chudakov.

Students from Tanzania and Tunisia have already participated in the IRL project, through live transmissions from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) ISIS reactor. Now they will be able to receive experiments from Morocco’s MA-R1 TRIGA reactor, along with Kenyan and South African students.

Under the IRL, the CEA’s ISIS reactor broadcasts experiments to universities in Belarus and Lithuania, while the Bariloche research centre of Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission provides access to its RA-6 research reactor to guest institutions from Colombia, Cuba and Ecuador. Last year, the project expanded to Asia, with the Research and Education Center of the Kyung Hee University in South Korea as the host reactor. The first transmissions are expected to start later this year.

The IRL was established under the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative focused on increasing the global supply of nuclear education and training programmes through research reactor facilities.

Khalid El Mediouri (left), Director General of CNESTEN, and Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the IAEA, signing an agreement that will allow researchers from Africa to use Morocco’s research reactor for remote education and training. (Photo: IAEA)

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