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Integrated Research Reactor Utilization Review Mission Concludes in Italy

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The core of the TRIGA Mark II research reactor at the Laboratory of Applied Nuclear Energy at the University of Pavia, Italy. Helping to improve the utilization of the reactor was the subject of an IAEA review mission in April, 2019. (Photo: N. Pessoa Barradas/IAEA)

A team of four international experts, including from the IAEA, completed a review mission at Italy’s University of Pavia earlier this month to assist the operators of the university’s research reactor in improving the utilization and sustainable operation of their facilities.

“Utilization and strategic planning are areas of particular importance to us and our stakeholders,” said Andrea Salvini, Manager of the TRIGA Mark II research reactor. “This IAEA mission has helped us to zoom in on strengthening our user community and enhancing our scientific capability in new areas.”

Of the 252 research reactors in operation in 55 countries, some are utilized to full capacity in education, research, the production of medical isotopes and the modification of materials for industrial use, but several countries have expressed the need for support from the IAEA to review the strategic plans and improve the utilization of their facilities.

The review, carried out on the 250 kW TRIGA Mark II research reactor at the university’s Laboratory of Applied Nuclear Energy, assessed the strategic plan and corresponding action plan for the reactor, the utilization level based on key performance indicators, opportunities and constraints that could limit further development of its services and products, and gaps and areas of improvement for effective, efficient and sustainable utilization of the facility.

The experts concluded that the research reactor is a well utilised facility that plays an important role in national socio-economic development, with applications in medicine, archaeology and materials science, among others. They also provided recommendations and suggestions to further enhance the utilization of the facility, including feedback on the facility’s strategic plan as well as the development of outreach and communication activities, and expansion of education activities to additional areas of knowledge.

Nuno Pessoa Barradas, Research Reactor Specialist with the IAEA, said that the experience from the mission in Pavia will contribute to further enable the IAEA to respond to requests from Member States to support them in enhancing the utilization of their research reactors.

“Some organizations may not have the capabilities to perform an integrated assessment of research reactor utilization,” said Pessoa Barradas. “This experience has provided valuable insight, and as a service could be replicated to assist countries in developing efficient national strategies for effective utilization of research reactors and sustainable operation.”  

Over the last five years, the IAEA has provided advice on strategic plans for utilization to more than 50 research reactors around the world and has provided bi-annual training courses on strategic planning for stakeholders of research reactor facilities. Last month, it launched an e-learning tool providing guidance on the development of strategic planning for efficient and sustainable utilization of different facilities operated by national nuclear institutions, including research reactors. The course is based on a 2017 IAEA publication on Strategic Planning for Research Reactors.

The IAEA currently offers several peer review services for research reactors, including the Integrated Safety Assessment of Research Reactors (INSARR), the Operation and Maintenance Assessment for Research Reactors (OMARR) and the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review for Research Reactors (INIR-RR).

Utilization and economic sustainability of research reactors will be one of the topics discussed at the International Conference on Research Reactors: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities to Ensure Effectiveness and Sustainability in November in Buenos Aires. Register for the conference, and follow our page for programme updates.

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