Operational safety of research reactors

The organization operating a research reactor is responsible for its safe operation. An independent regulatory body provides oversight through inspection and enforcement. The IAEA publishes safety standards to support these bodies, offers review services and organizes training.

The IAEA’s safety standards, developed on the basis of international consensus and best practices, cover all aspects of safety in the operation of nuclear installations, as well as the related regulatory framework and activities. They include requirements for safety management and the organizational and technical aspects of safety during the operational phase of such installations, be they nuclear power plants, research reactors or fuel cycle facilities. They also comprise implementing guides for all major types of facilities.

The Agency also provides technical advisory and safety review services based on the safety standards to help operating organizations achieve and maintain the highest levels of operational safety. For research reactors, the Integrated Assessment of Research Reactors (INSARR) service reviews safety in 21 technical areas, many of which deal with different aspects of research reactor operations.

The IAEA also provides technical advisory and safety review services to support regulatory bodies to enhance their capacity for independent, effective regulatory supervision of research reactor safety. These services typically result in recommendations conveyed to the host organization so it can take steps to enhancing the operational safety of its installation.

Some Member States have project and supply agreements with the IAEA under which the Agency provides for the transfer of fuel to the research reactors. The IAEA monitors these research reactors to ensure that their operations are in line with IAEA safety standards and to ensure an appropriate level of safety. To do so, the Agency holds regular review meetings on the safety status of these research reactors, collects and analyses safety performance indicator data, and conducts safety review and training activities.

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