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Use of Operating Experience Strengthens Safety of Research Reactors

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A peek into a research reactor. (Photo: C. Brady/IAEA)

The IAEA incident reporting system for research reactors (IRSRR) helps operators strengthen safety by enabling them to share operating experience from events, including root causes and lessons learned, the system’s national coordinators concluded during a recent meeting in Vienna.

The 36 delegates taking part in the 24-28 June meeting discussed lessons learned from events reported to the IRSRR since their last meeting, held in August 2017. They also identified actions that could further improve research reactor safety, including the establishment of effective management systems and ageing management programmes as well as the dissemination of IRSRR feedback to research reactor operators.

The 225 operational research reactors around the world are used for research, education and training, testing materials and the production of radioisotopes for medicine and industry. The IAEA supports its Member States in work to continuously enhance the research reactors’ safety, operation and utilization performance, including by developing safety standards and technical guidelines, by conducting safety peer review and advisory services and by organizing technical meetings, training courses and workshops.

An analysis of reports to the IRSRR in the past two years indicates that the ageing of facilities and human factors in maintenance and operating procedures need continued attention, Amgad Shokr, Head of the IAEA’s Research Reactor Safety Section, told the meeting.

“This could highlight a need to focus on refurbishment and modernization of safety systems and components,” he said. “The analysis also indicates a need to strengthen work on human factors, including by enhancing training programmes, work planning and quality assurance aspects of operating programmes and activities.” 

The meeting also featured a training session on establishing programmes for operating experience feedback that aimed to help participants improve research reactor safety in line with based on the IAEA safety standards.

Fifty-nine states - almost all countries that operate research reactors - are part of the IRSSR. The next national coordinator meeting will be held in 2021.

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