Commissioning of research reactors

Commissioning is the process by which systems and components of nuclear power plants, research reactors and fuel cycle facilities, after they have been constructed, are made operational and verified so they are in line with the original design and meet the required safety and performance criteria.

Commissioning is an essential part of the process of constructing and eventually operating a research reactor. It is also key for the safe operation of such a facility. Only when the necessary steps in the commissioning process are successfully completed, can individual systems and the complete facility be declared ready for service. Commissioning programmes are implemented by a facility’s operator, but they need to be reviewed by a regulatory body to demonstrate that structures, systems and components that are important to safety meet all design objectives and performance criteria.                                     

The IAEA has developed a set of safety standards that specifically cover the area of commissioning for nuclear power plants, research reactors and fuel cycle facilities. These standards, widely used by Member States, deal with the safety requirements for commissioning such installations or when making major modifications to them. Using a systematic and step-by-step approach, they address a wide array of topics, from organization and management to testing and review procedures, and the interfaces between organizations involved in commissioning activities, such as the regulatory body.

The Agency provides targeted assistance to Member States to help them apply the safety standards. This includes training and capacity-building, as well as specific technical advisory and review services. Such services are offered to both regulatory bodies and operating organizations and put an emphasis on the development, implementation and review of systematic, comprehensive commissioning programmes. The review areas range from leadership and safety management to radiation protection, emergency preparedness and response, and accident management.

The IAEA also regularly organizes training workshops for designers, operators, regulators and other technical staff on the concrete application of the safety standards, and functions as a forum where experts can exchange their views and practical experience with the commissioning or modification of facilities.

Stay in touch