The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has launched a new peer review service to assist member states to develop infrastructure for nuclear research reactors. The first Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review for Research Reactors (INIR-RR) was conducted in early February in Nigeria at the invitation of the government, which is planning to build a second research reactor.
The INIR-RR follows the IAEA’s Milestones Approach, which provides guidance on the preparation of a research-reactor project by addressing 19 issues ranging from nuclear safety and security to the fuel cycle, waste management, and funding and financing. The INIR-RR helps to identify and address gaps in infrastructure development, in line with good international practices as well as applicable IAEA safety standards and guidelines.
“While the IAEA previously carried out advisory missions to support Member States in embarking on research-reactor programmes, the INIR-RR will offer more structured and systematic assistance for assessing and further developing national infrastructure,” commented Andrea Borio di Tigliole, team leader for the mission to Nigeria and Head of the Research Reactor Section in the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy. “Research reactors can foster development and play an important role in enhancing quality of life.”
The mission to Nigeria was conducted by the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Safety and Security, and Nuclear Science and Applications, and implemented as part of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme. The team comprised two experts from Argentina and the Republic of Korea as well as four IAEA staff members. The team found that Nigeria is making notable progress in strengthening the infrastructure for a new research reactor, which is expected to begin operation in 2025 and made recommendations aimed to advance infrastructure development. Nigeria’s good practice of effectively utilising resources across national organisations involved in the project was acknowledged.
Nigeria's first research reactor, commissioned at Ahmadu Bello University in 2004, is a 30kW Chinese Miniature Neutron Source Reactor and is used for the analysis of materials and training. The IAEA is assisting with its conversion to low-enriched uranium fuel and repatriation of its irradiated high-enriched uranium fuel to China.