almost 60 years, research reactors have been centres
of innovation and productivity for nuclear
science and technology. The multi-disciplinary research
that research reactors support has
spawned new developments in nuclear power,
radioisotope production, neutron beam research,
nuclear medicine, materials development, component
testing, computer code validation and
To date, some 672 research reactors have been built, and of these, 274 reactors in 56 countries continue to operate. However, nearly two-thirds of the world's operating research reactors are now over 30 years old. Many of them have been refurbished to meet today's technological standards and safety requirements. But the challenges associated with the ageing of components and materials, along with maintaining staffing and funding for these facilities, continue to be serious issues in many countries. Fortunately, these issues are now receiving increased attention worldwide.
If the benefits from research reactors are to be maintained, then the premises upon which they are built and operated must be reconsidered and brought into the today’s technical, economic, and social realities. All aspects of research reactor life cycle management should be re-examined. The IAEA is assisting operating organizations and national authorities in developing realistic strategic plans, focusing on using these reactors in a manner that is consistent with the facility's and host country's capabilities and objectives.
In response to a resolution by the IAEA General Conference, the Secretariat has developed a Code of Conduct concerning the safety of research reactors, relying on the technical and legal expertise of many of its Member States. Research reactors are valuable technological tools, and it is important that their use remains viable. To that end, research reactors throughout the world must be made safe and secure. The fuel that powers them must be managed properly and disposed of in a sustainable manner. The IAEA is assisting its Member States in attaining these goals, thus helping to fulfil the promise that nuclear science and technology offer for the good of mankind.