The IAEA is committed to promoting and upgrading the safety and security of nuclear installations around the world, including research reactors. Operational safety is one of the fundamental pillars in ensuring the overall safety and reliability of nuclear facilities. According to feedback from recent IAEA review missions to research reactors in Africa, there is a need to further enhance the operational radiation protection and radioactive waste management programme for research reactors in the region.
In collaboration with the European Commission (EC), the IAEA, through its programme on enhancing the safety of research reactors and the technical cooperation (TC) programme, is providing support to African Member States in the establishment of a comprehensive programme on operational radiation protection and radioactive waste management to improve the radiation safety of nuclear research reactors in Africa.
As part of the activities to strengthen regional capabilities in this field, a workshop on ‘Operational Radiological Protection Programme for Research Reactors’ was held in Vienna, on 18-22 March 2013.
Thirteen participants from nine Member States in Africa attended the workshop. In addition, the workshop gathered 30 participants from 25 Member States from other regions. Participants of the workshop included senior members from operating organizations of research reactors and regulators responsible for the radiation safety of research reactors. The workshop participants represented a wide range of research reactor types and sizes with different utilization programmes and long operational histories.
The workshop provided practical information and guidance on the establishment of an effective operational radiation protection and radioactive waste management programme for research reactors. It was supported by funds contributed by the EC towards the IAEA’s technical cooperation activities on radiation safety, as part of their overarching goal to ensure nuclear safety around the world.
The workshop addressed the IAEA’s safety standards for research reactors and emphasized the requirements for effective operational radiation protection and radioactive waste management programmes. In particular, technical guidance was provided in relation to the classification of working areas from the radiation protection point of view, and the application of the principle of optimization of protection.
The workshop resulted in identification of good safety practices and specific areas that need improvement in each country regarding the operational radiation protection and radioactive waste management programme.
Research reactors are small in size and are often used for research, education & training, testing materials or producing radioisotopes for medicine and industry. Their main purpose is to produce neutrons for research and other nuclear applications. Around 229 research reactors are currently operating in 58 countries. Of these, 84 are located in developing countries.
Like nuclear power reactors, the safety of research reactors requires careful attention. Although research reactors are not covered by the Convention on Nuclear Safety, their safety is addressed by the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors. The Code requires comprehensive and systematic approach to operational radiation safety throughout the lifetime of a research reactor.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.