IAEA reports enhanced safety at Czech research reactor

7 February 2023

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Safety Assessment of Research Reactor (INSARR) team says the Czech Republic has enhanced safety at its main research reactor. However, the team also found the need to continue to improve training and radiation monitoring practices.

The four-day mission requested by the Government was a follow-up to a previous INSARR visit in 2020. The team assessed implementation of safety measures at the 10 MWt LVR-15 water cooled research reactor at Research Centre Rež (CVR), near Prague.

The reactor, commissioned in 1957, is used for medical radioisotope production, research and development, and for irradiating material for industrial applications. It has undergone extensive refurbishments since 1989. The Czech Republic currently has three research reactors in operation.

The three-member team comprised one expert from Argentina and two IAEA staff who visited the reactor and met with CVR officials as well as LVR-15 operating personnel and management. The mission reviewed the organisation and management of the LVR-15, as well as technical aspects. These included safety analysis, operation and maintenance programmes, radiation protection, and safety of experimental research activities. The national licensing authority, the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB), acted as observer for the mission.

“By implementing INSARR recommendations made in 2020, CVR has shown commitment to continued safety improvement in accordance with the IAEA safety standards,” said team leader Amgad Shokr, head of the IAEA’s Research Reactor Safety Section. “In addition to the identification and implementation of safety upgrades, the periodic safety review of the reactor, which is planned to be completed by the end of 2026, is an opportunity for CVR to further strengthen its capacity in safety management.”

Improvements based on IAEA’s 2020 recommendations included:

  • Strengthening of the reactor’s organisational structure by reducing the overlap of, and potential conflict between, roles, responsibilities and authorities.
  • Establishing a reactor safety committee to cover the review of all activities important to safety, including reactor modifications and operational safety programmes.
  • Establishing procedures for the safety assessment of new experiments and modifications, and defining the relevant safety requirements for their design, testing and approval.
  • Improving the ageing management programme to include experimental and radioisotope production devices and the reactor’s civil structure.

The mission team identified further actions to be taken by CVR to fully implement the 2020 mission recommendations. These included:

  • To enhance procedures for learning from operating experience and self-assessment.
  • To establish a formal training programme for maintenance personnel in accordance with the IAEA safety standards.
  • To strengthen radiation monitoring practices in the workplace.

The team also made an additional recommendation to align operational limits and conditions with IAEA safety standards, particularly the limit on fuel burnup at discharge from the reactor, preventing release of radioactive material from the fuel.

“The follow-up INSARR mission was very useful. We addressed all the recommendations of the initial mission and I am pleased that the IAEA experts noted significant development,” said Ján Milcák, Head of CVR’s Reactor Operation Section. CVR plans to invite an INSARR mission to LVR-15 towards the end of 2028.

Image: IAEA experts and CVR staff discuss the implementation of INSARR recommendations in the control room of LVR-15 research reactor in Rež, Czech Republic (courtesy of CVR)

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