Poland’s MARIA research reactor restarts after modernisation

7 November 2023

After several months of renovation work Poland’s MARIA research reactor, located at the National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ - Narodowym Centrum Badan Jadrowych) in Otwock, Swierk, has restarted operations.

In a letter to all those who participated in the modernisation, NCBJ director Krzysztof Kurek said this was the largest modernisation project since the reactor was launched in 1974 and was necessary to obtain a licence extension in 2025. “The project is extremely difficult and requires a lot of commitment, above all from employees of the Nuclear Operation Department, but also from employees of other departments. The reactor has been safely started and is working at full power. I would like to thank all the employees involved in this process.”

A NCBJ communiqué posted on social media noted that, as part of the work, the main switchgear was replaced, control and parts of measuring systems were modernised. The modernisation works also included waste tanks, an aerosol measurement system inside the reactor building and a fan cooler. Modernisation of the switchgear and control was particularly demanding due to the need to replace the installation connecting old devices and systems, while maintaining their functionality. Preparations for this task lasted several years.

As a result of the work, the threshold systems were updated, a modern visualisation system was introduced, control panels were replaced and previously activated systems were fully implemented. “NCBJ emphasises that replacement of the reactor energy system in conjunction with the simultaneous implementation of numerous renovation and modernisation works is a unique global phenomenon.”

The 30 MWt MARIA research nuclear reactor was named in honour of the Polish Nobel Prize winner Maria Sklodowska-Curie. Its construction began in June 1970, and it was launched in December 1974. It was designed and built by Polish specialists.

It is a water and beryllium moderated high flux pool type reactor with graphite reflector and pressurised channels containing concentric six-tube assemblies of fuel elements.

As well as radioisotope production, it is used for:

  • testing of fuel and structural materials for nuclear power engineering;
  • neutron transmutation doping of silicon;
  • neutron modification of materials;
  • research in neutron and condensed matter physics neutron radiography;
  • neutron activation analysis;
  • neutron beams in medicine; and
  • training in the field of reactor physics & technology.

Image: The new control room for the MARIA research reactor (courtesy of NCBJ)

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