IAEA mission assesses Uzbek research reactor

28 March 2018

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Operational and Maintenance Assessment for Research Reactors (OMARR) mission has identified areas for improvement in the operation and maintenance of Uzbekistan's WWR-SM research reactor.   

The mission, which was requested by the government, was aimed at improving operational and maintenance practices at the research reactor.

The team, which comprised one IAEA and three international experts, identified areas for improvement and addressed specific operational challenges.  “WWR-SM management has made commendable and continuous efforts to improve the operational performance of the reactor and has taken a timely decision to undertake the review,” commented Ram Sharma, Mission Team Leader and Nuclear Engineer within the IAEA’s Research Reactor Section. 

“The team thoroughly reviewed areas identified during last year’s pre-OMARR mission and has made several recommendations and suggestions. The results of the mission will be beneficial in improving reliability and availability of the reactor for long-term operation and effective utilisation.” 

One recommendation is to establish and implement a "systematic and effective" ageing management programme, and an integrated management system based on IAEA safety standards and guidelines.

The WWR-SM research reactor at Uzbekistan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics started operating in 1959 and was shut down in 2016. It resumed operation in 2017. The reactor is mainly used for isotope production but also has applications for research and irradiation. In 2008, the IAEA supported the successful conversion of the reactor from highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.

The IAEA noted that through its technical cooperation programme it continues to support the Institute of Nuclear Physics in strengthening radiation and nuclear safety. It is also assisting to improve the use of the WWR-SM through human resource capacity building and by refurbishing and replacing essential components of the research reactor. 

The IAEA is also helping with the decommissioning of Uzbekistan’s second research reactor, IIN-3M, operated by JSC “Foton”. The HEU was removed from the site in 2015, along with more than a hundred disused radioactive sources in 2016. The reactor vessel removed and sent to the national disposal facility in 2017. Now, the project is focused on the removal of slightly-contaminated concrete and other wastes from the site. The decommissioning project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

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