Improving the Safe and Efficient Use of Research Reactors: IAEA Conference to Address Challenges and Ways Forward

Research Reactors

(Photo: credit, IAEA)

Over 300 participants at the largest international conference on research reactors ever held will discuss progress in the development of advanced and next generation research reactors, and compare operational best practices from some of the 246 research reactors around the world.  

“The objective of this conference is to foster the exchange of information on operating and planned research reactors and to provide a forum for reactor operators, managers, users, regulators, designers and suppliers to share their experiences and lessons learned and to address common issues, challenges, and strategies,” said Andrea Borio di Tigliole, Head of the Research Reactor Section at the IAEA, and one of the scientific secretaries of next week’s International Conference on Research Reactors: Safe Management and Effective Utilization, to be held in Vienna.

For more than 60 years, research reactors have been centres of innovation and productivity for nuclear science and technology programmes in 67 countries around the world. The multidisciplinary, scientific and technology development applications they support have spawned advances in the nuclear power industry, in the production of medical and industrial radioisotopes, in neutron beam research and applications, and in improvements in agriculture, among many other important applications. They are also used for education and training of scientists and technicians, and are contributing to building expertise and national infrastructure to support nuclear power programmes.

Research reactor experts from 56 Member States and three international organizations are expected to attend the conference from 16 to 20 November 2015. The operational issues to be discussed will include maintenance, ageing management, emergency preparedness and response, utilization, safety, security, sustainability of isotope production and fuel supply, managing spent fuel and waste, and decommissioning.

More recent challenges include the need to establish adequate safety, security, regulatory and resource infrastructure for new research reactor projects, particularly when a research reactor is the first nuclear installation in a country. Another challenge focuses on safety reassessment of research reactor facilities in light of lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Effective utilization of research reactors persists also as a primary concern since it is the basis for sustainable operation.

The IAEA research reactor database includes 246 operational research reactors in 55 countries. 30 countries are developing or planning research reactors, including 13 Member States working on their first ever research reactor project. The IAEA assists these Member States in their efforts from initial technology development to safe operation and effective utilization of research reactors with an integrated, holistic approach, drawing on the expertise of five IAEA departments: Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Nuclear Safety and Security, Safeguards and Technical Cooperation.

To effectively promote and foster the exchange of scientific and technical information on research reactors the IAEA also  organizes periodic meetings, seminars, symposia and international conferences, such as the one being held next week.

Last update: 23 November 2015