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Code of Conduct Strengthens Research Reactor Safety, IAEA Meeting Concludes

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The Austrialian Nuclear Science and Technlogy Organisation's Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor. (Photo: ANSTO)

The Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors has strengthened safety globally by providing guidance that has led to enhanced regulatory supervision and improved programmes to ensured continued safe operation, participants at an IAEA meeting this month concluded.

Experts from 40 Member States who took part in the fourth international meeting on the Application of the Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors called on the IAEA to continue supporting the application of the Code, which was adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2004.

Greg Rzentkowski, IAEA Director of the Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, said the IAEA would continue its work to help Member States apply the Code, but noted that countries’ commitment was crucial. “Each State is responsible to ensure nuclear safety,” he said.

“The key factor for the safety of research reactors is national commitment to apply the Code of Conduct and IAEA safety standards,” he highlighted, adding that international cooperation and exchange of information, such as that fostered by the meeting, were also vital.

Participants in the one-week meeting discussed their experience in establishing regulatory inspection programmes and periodic safety reviews similar to those conducted at nuclear power plants. They also shared experiences of implementing operational radiation protection programmes and emergency plans.

Meeting Chairman Alexander Adams Jr., Chief of the Research and Test Reactors Licensing Branch at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the Code’s guidance was widely implemented by the some 55 countries that operate research reactors.

Even so, challenges remain, said Amgad Shokr, Head of the IAEA Research Reactors Safety Section: “More work is required in establishing and maintaining a strong culture for safety, and in implementing safety upgrades identified in the analysis of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.”

Research reactors fulfil diverse needs, including medical and industrial isotope production, elemental analysis, education and training, scientific research, and technology development.

The next meeting on the Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors is planned for 2020.

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