Research Reactor Projects Done Right: IAEA Workshop Reinforces Best Practices

Twenty seven delegates from 22 Member States gained practical information and knowledge on IAEA-developed methodology for evaluating the status of their respective national nuclear infrastructure at a workshop organized by the IAEA in Vienna from 4 to 8 May 2015. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Some have established programmes, others are either just starting or considering to start research reactor projects in their respective countries. Together, the delegates attending the IAEA training workshop on assessment of the national nuclear infrastructure to support new research reactor projects shared a common benefit – a more thorough understanding of internationally accepted best practices for running a new research reactor project.

The workshop, from 4 to 8 May 2015, was built around the IAEA’s publication, Specific Consideration and Milestones for a Research Reactor Project, most commonly referred to as the Research Reactor Milestone publication. Twenty-seven delegates from 22 Member States acquired practical information and knowledge on IAEA-developed methodology for evaluating the status of their respective national nuclear infrastructure. Invited international experts and staff from the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Nuclear Safety and Security, and Safeguards, as well as from the Office of Legal Affairs, delivered the presentations. 

“The workshop brought the Research Reactor Milestones publication to life,” said Salih Alkhafaji, Engineering and Commissioning Manager of the Jordan Research and Training Reactor. “Listening to the IAEA experts in person, asking them questions, and collaborating with them during the workshop provided clarity to many questions in my mind. This type of interaction is very valuable and yields insights which one will not get by simply reading a technical manual.”

The Milestones publication provides guidance on the timely preparation of a research reactor project through a systematic development process covering three phases: pre-project phase, project formulation phase and project implementation phase. It includes detailed descriptions of 19 issues that need to be addressed to fully develop and support national nuclear infrastructure for the project, identifying the achievements (or milestones) for each stage.

“The value of strategic thinking for effectively managing research reactor projects was an important lesson for me,” said Ridzuan Abdul Mutalib, a research officer at the Reactor Instrumentation and Control Section of the Malaysian Nuclear Agency. “The insights I have gained during the workshop will be shared with my colleagues in my Malaysia to help us manage our country’s  only research reactor better.”

The workshop also included working group sessions, during which the participants were trained in the application of the IAEA-developed methodology for the self-assessment of the status of their national nuclear infrastructure, sharing and discussing experiences, challenges and lessons learned.

“One of the objectives of the workshop was to demonstrate that, to be successful, a research reactor project requires all issues to be addressed in an integrated manner,” said Andrea Borio di Tigliole, acting Head of the IAEA Research Reactor Section.  “Thus, the participants could experience and appreciate the value of the IAEA one-house approach in this area.”

The workshop also provided the ideal venue to promote a new peer review service for research reactors named the Integrated Research Reactor Infrastructure Assessment (IRRIA) mission. IRRIA missions will be conducted by the IAEA, upon a Member State’s request, to assist in determining the status of its national nuclear infrastructure and to identify further development needs to support a new research reactor project.

Listening to the IAEA experts in person, asking them questions, and collaborating with them during the workshop provided clarity to many questions in my mind.

Salih Alkhafaji, Engineering and Commissioning Manager, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission