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IAEA Mission Sees Improved Safety at Polish Research Reactor, Says Work Remains

Warsaw, Poland

Local students visit the MARIA research reactor in Świerk-Otwock, Poland. (Photo: NCBJ)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said the operator of Poland’s only research reactor has improved safety since a previous review three years ago, but that work remains to address recommendations related to organizational and technical aspects.

The Integrated Safety Assessment of Research Reactors (INSARR) team concluded a four-day follow-up mission to review the implementation of recommendations made during a 2014 mission to assess the safety of the MARIA research reactor. Located 30 km south of the capital Warsaw in Świerk-Otwock, the 30 MW-reactor is operated by the National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) and was initially commissioned in 1974. It was converted to use low-enriched uranium as fuel in 2014 and received a new licence the following year. The main purposes of the reactor are research, the production of medical and industrial isotopes, and irradiation services and experiments.

“The operator has made several safety improvements since the 2014 mission,” said team leader William Kennedy of the Research Reactor Safety Section at the IAEA. “However, NCBJ has not finished implementing the new integrated management system and efforts are ongoing to upgrade reactor safety systems.”

The INSARR team said that most of the reactor’s safety documents – including those related to operational limits and conditions, the safety analysis report and emergency and decommissioning plans – were updated based on IAEA safety standards. It also observed improvements in operational radiation protection, upgrades to the reactor safety instrumentation and the recruiting and training of new operating personnel to encourage knowledge transfer before senior staff retire.

The three-member team comprised experts from Australia, Germany and one IAEA official. The mission covered organizational and management issues, as well as technical areas including safety assessment, operation and maintenance, radiation protection, radioactive waste management, and emergency preparedness. The team observed on-site operations, reviewed documents and held technical discussions with the reactor’s management and staff.

“MARIA management and personnel recognize that safety is a top priority,” said reactor manager Ireneusz Owsianko. “The INSARR service and the IAEA’s support in implementing previous recommendations contributed to improving the safety of MARIA. We are committed to fully address the IAEA’s recommendations and to safely operate the reactor in support of Poland’s nuclear programme.”

The mission made two new recommendations for further improvements, including:

  • The results of accident analyses should be systematically compared to acceptance criteria in the safety analysis report.
  • The safety classifications of the structures, systems and components should be done following the process described in the IAEA safety standard relevant to research reactors, using deterministic methods.

About INSARR Missions: INSARR mission is an IAEA peer review service, conducted at the request of a Member State, to assess the safety of research reactors based on IAEA safety standards. General information about INSARR missions can be found on the IAEA Website.

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