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Project on Enhanced Utilization and Applications of Research Reactors


Research reactors (RRs) have played and continue to play an extremely important role in the development of nuclear science and technology. They are used to produce medical and industrial isotopes, for research in physics, biology and materials science, and for scientific education and training. They also occupy an indispensible place in nuclear power programmes. For nuclear research and technology development to continue to prosper, RRs must be safely and reliably operated, efficiently utilised, refurbished when necessary, provided with adequate non-proliferating fuel cycle services and safely decommissioned at the end of life. From more than 730 research reactors constructed around the world, about 240 are still operating. Russia has the highest number of operational RRs (~69), followed by USA (~42), China (~15), Japan (~14), France (~11) and Germany (~8). The RRs are distributed over 56 Member States, including 40 developing countries.

Nowadays the decreasing fleet of these facilities faces a number of critical issues and important challenges such as underutilization, inexistent or inappropriate strategic-business plans, ageing and needs for modernization-refurbishment, presence of fresh or spent HEU fuel, unavailability of qualified high-density LEU fuels, accumulation of spent nuclear fuel, advanced decommissioning planning and implementation stages, and, in some cases, safety and security issues. In addition to this non-exhaustive list of issues are the plans to build new RRs by Member States with little or no experience in this domain. In response to these challenges, the IAEA is taking actions and designing activities to tackle these issues and make sure that promotion, support and assistance to Member States in the development and uninterrupted operation of strong, dynamic, sustainable, safe and secure RRs dedicated to peaceful uses of atomic energy and nuclear techniques is preserved.

The assistance and support of the Agency is provided through:



Contact: Project Officer

Last updated: 2013-03-01