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IAEA Assesses Operation and Maintenance Practices at Uzbekistan’s Research Reactor

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The control room of WWR-SM research reactor, June 2017. (Photo: Institute of Nuclear Physics, Uzbekistan)

The IAEA conducted an Operational and Maintenance Assessment for Research Reactors (OMARR) mission to Uzbekistan’s sole operating research reactor, WWR-SM. The mission, which took place last week upon request by the Government, was aimed at improving operational and maintenance practices at the research reactor.

“This is a very timely, useful and important mission,” said Bekhzod Yuldashev, President of Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, which owns the reactor. “The mission allowed us to look at our reactor with the eyes of the world's leading experts.”

The mission, conducted by one IAEA and three international experts, identified areas for improvement and addressed specific operational challenges. Recommendations of an OMARR mission can also be used to prepare strategic plans for ageing management and long term operation, refurbishment and modernization of a facility.

“WWR-SM management has made commendable and continuous efforts to improve the operational performance of the reactor and has taken a timely decision to undertake the review,” said Ram Sharma, OMARR Mission Team Leader and Nuclear Engineer at the IAEA’s Research Reactor Section. “The team thoroughly reviewed areas identified during last year’s pre-OMARR mission, and has made several recommendations and suggestions. The results of the mission will be beneficial in improving reliability and availability of the reactor for long term operation and effective utilization.” 

One of the recommendations is to establish and implement a systematic and effective ageing management programme, and an integrated management system. They should be based on IAEA safety standards and guidelines, and continuously evaluated and improved.

The WWR-SM research reactor, which started operating in 1959, was shut down in 2016 and resumed operation following the decision of the Government in 2017. Located at Uzbekistan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics, it is mainly used for isotope production but also for research in nuclear physics, radiation physics, radiation material science, activation analysis and irradiation of minerals. In 2008, the IAEA supported the successful conversion of the reactor from highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.

Through its technical cooperation programme, the IAEA continues to support the Institute of Nuclear Physics in strengthening radiation and nuclear safety and improving the use of the WWR-SM through human resource capacity building and by refurbishing and replacing essential components of the research reactor.

Also, the IAEA actively supports the decommissioning of Uzbekistan’s second research reactor, IIN-3M operated by JSC “Foton”. After the removal of HEU in 2015, over a hundred of disused radioactive sources were removed from the JSC “Foton” site in 2016. The reactor vessel, as the main component, was transferred to the national disposal facility in 2017. The project is now focused on the removal of slightly contaminated concrete and other wastes from the site. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

More than ten other IAEA Member States have expressed interest in hosting an OMARR mission, with pre‑OMARR missions already planned in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo later in March and in May, respectively.

The mission allowed us to look at our reactor with the eyes of the world's leading experts.
Bekhzod Yuldashev, President, Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences

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