An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of nuclear safety experts completed a mission on 14 November to review aspects of safety at Belgium’s Research Reactor 2 (BR2). The mission was requested by Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) and focused on ageing management and continued safe operation.
BR2, one of three operating research reactors at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) in Mol, began operation in 1963 and accounts for about a quarter of the global production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial purposes. It also produces doped silicon, which forms a semiconductor material for electronic components. The reactor is permitted to operate until its next periodic safety review in 2026, when a decision on its operation for a subsequent ten years may be taken.
“The BR2 operator has made significant progress in establishing an effective ageing management programme,” said review team member Amgad Shokr, head of the IAEA’s Research Reactor Safety Section. “Still, work remains in identifying and implementing additional practical upgrades to maintain continued safe operation of the reactor in line with the latest IAEA safety standards.”
The revoew team, which comprised experts from Argentina, Canada, South Africa, and the IAEA, said the reactor’s ageing management programme covers "most areas" recommended by the IAEA safety standards. Plans are in place to address outstanding issues. The team made some recommendations and suggestions to strengthen the BR2’s safety for continued operation, including:
- Expanding the ageing management programme to include radioisotope production facilities, experimental devices and all civil structures important to safety.
- Enhancing the equipment qualification programme for equipment important to safety.
- Regular reviews of the effectiveness of programmes and procedures to monitor ageing trends and to minimise physical degradation of reactor components.
- Revising the ageing management programme to address quality requirements and experience feedback.
The reviews of ageing management and continued safe operation of research reactor are performed in accordance with a methodology developed based on the IAEA Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) Peer Review Service for nuclear power plants, and in compliance with the IAEA safety standards for research reactors.
Photo: Core of BR2 (Credit: SCK.CEN)