IAEA sees enhanced safety at Czech research reactor

08 February 2023

Safety programmes and procedures at the Czech Republic's LVR-15 research reactor have been enhanced through implementation of the recommendations of a previous mission conducted in 2020, according to a follow-up International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission.

The LVR-15 research reactor (Image: CVŘ)

An IAEA Integrated Safety Assessment of Research Reactors (INSARR) mission is conducted at the request of an IAEA Member State. It is a peer review service that assesses and evaluates the safety of research reactors based on IAEA safety standards.

A light-water moderated and cooled tank-type nuclear reactor with forced cooling, the 10 megawatt LVR-15 is the Czech Republic's oldest and largest research reactor. It began operations in 1957 and has undergone extensive refurbishments starting in 1988/89 and continuing in recent years. Operated by the Research Centre Řež (CVŘ), the reactor is used for medical radioisotope production, research and development, and for irradiating material for industrial applications. The Czech Republic has three research reactors in operation.

The four-day INSARR follow-up mission was requested by the Czech government to assess implementation of safety measures at the reactor, which is located 10 km north of the capital Prague. The three-member team comprised one expert from Argentina and two IAEA staff. The mission reviewed the organisation and management of the LVR-15, as well as technical aspects such as safety analysis, operation and maintenance programmes, radiation protection, and safety of experimental research activities.

"By implementing INSARR recommendations made in 2020, CVŘ has shown commitment to continued safety improvement in accordance with the IAEA safety standards," said Amgad Shokr, mission team leader and 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 CVŘ to further strengthen its capacity in safety management."

Improvements found since the 2020 mission include: 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; and 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 CVŘ to fully implement the 2020 mission recommendations, specifically to: enhance procedures for learning from operating experience and self-assessment; establish a formal training programme for maintenance personnel in accordance with the IAEA safety standards; and 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," said Ján Milčák, Head of CVŘ's Reactor Operation Section. "We addressed all the recommendations of the initial mission and I am pleased that the IAEA experts noted significant development. We are grateful to the mission experts for their professional and valuable support as we strive for continuous safety improvement."

CVR intends to request a follow-up INSARR mission in late-2028.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News