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IAEA’s Oldest Technical Working Group, on Fast Reactors, Turns 50

Industrial sized sodium cooled fast reactor, the BN-800, started commercial operations at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant near Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation, in 2015. (Photo: Rosatom)

For 50 years, IAEA’s activities in research and technology development of fast neutron systems have been implemented within the framework of the Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors (TWG-FR). The 50th meeting of this technical working group, the oldest one in the Agency, was held last week in Vienna.

Established in 1967 and with a current membership of 35 Member States and international organizations, the TWG-FR plays a significant role in addressing major issues in fast reactor and related fuel cycle technology. It also aims to find coordinated solutions to overcome technological and research barriers.

“This is the golden jubilee of the very first international collaboration forum at the IAEA,” said Dohee Hahn, the Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power. 

Alexander Bychkov, former IAEA Deputy Director General and former Director of the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) in Dimitrovgrad, Russia, underlined that international cooperation has been a very important factor for the development of fast reactors. “This has been beneficial for Russia, which through experimental facilities and industrial size reactors, has had success in their development and deployment,” he said. 

Subhash Chander Chetal, former Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, said that India has also benefited from the free exchange of views at these meetings. “These collaborations have produced tangible results for India, one of the first participants of this working group, especially in its development of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in Kalpakkam,” he added.

Even for countries who do not host fast reactors, “such meetings help with education and training, especially as they relate to understanding the properties of sodium, a common coolant in some fast reactors,” said Dr. Osvaldo Azpitarte, Head of the Advanced Reactors Section at the National Commission on Atomic Energy of Argentina.  

Dr. Daniela Gugiu, from the Institute for Nuclear Research at Pitesti, also affirmed that this technical working group gives a forum for the free exchange of information and expertise. “This is crucial in the field of materials and understanding common issues in modelling. Information and expertise gathered here has been an asset for spearheading the advanced lead-cooled fast reactor demonstrator, known as ALFRED, in Romania.” 

The four-day Technical Working Group will be followed by the International Conference on Fast Reactors and Related Fuel Cycles (FR17), to be held on 26-29 June 2017. This major conference in Yekaterinburg, Russia, will highlight strategic and technical options proposed by individual countries and companies.

This is the golden jubilee of the very first international collaboration forum at the IAEA.
Dohee Hahn, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power

The precursor to the Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors included yearly seminars on the Physics of Fast and Intermediate Reactors. The photo shows one of these seminars, from August 1961 in Vienna, with more than 120 nuclear scientists and engineers from 21 countries and two international organizations attending. (Photo: IAEA)

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Last update: 26 July 2017

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