IAEA sees safety improvements at Czech research reactor

26 August 2020

Řež (CVR), the operator of the LVR-15 research reactor in the Czech Republic, has continued to improve safety since a previous review in 2003, implementing significant refurbishments to modernise the reactor's systems and components, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts. The team also found areas for further safety enhancements, including in organisation and operational safety programmes.

The LVR-15 research reactor at Řež, about 10 km from Prague (Image: CVR)

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 nuclear reactor with forced cooling, the 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. It is used for medical radioisotope production, research and development, material irradiation and neutron activation analysis. The Czech Republic has three research reactors in operation.

An eight-day INSARR mission to assess the safety of the 10 MWt LVR-15 concluded yesterday. The six-member team comprised experts from Argentina, the Netherlands and Slovenia, as well as the IAEA. The mission covered organisational and management aspects as well as technical areas, including safety analysis; operation and maintenance programmes; radiation protection; and safety of modifications, experimental devices and irradiation facilities. It was the first IAEA safety review mission to take place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IAEA team noted the effective implementation of administrative and technical measures to ensure the continuity of safe operation during the pandemic. It also observed continued improvement in the effectiveness of training, maintenance and ageing management programmes.

The team made recommendations to CVR for further improving safety at the LVR-15. These include strengthening the organisational structure for operation by clarifying staff roles and responsibilities to avoid potential conflicts of duties and authorities. It also recommended enhancing the effectiveness of the CVR safety committee by enlarging its scope and working procedures to cover new experiments, modifications and the operational safety programme. CVR's ageing management programme should also be expanded to include experimental devices, irradiation facilities, radiation monitoring systems and the reactor's civil structures.

Procedures to respond to abnormal situations such as flood, seismic events and total loss of electrical power supply should also be strengthened. The team also suggested enhancing the operational radiation protection programme through improvements to work instructions and radiation monitoring practices.

"By requesting an IAEA INSARR mission, CVR has shown a strong commitment to safety and to its continuous improvement," said Amgad Shokr, head of the IAEA's Research Reactor Safety Section. "Given its long service life and utilisation, refurbishment and modernisation work at the reactor should continue. This work should also be extended to include a review of safety analysis and procedures to identify practicable upgrades to maintain the continued safe operation of the facility in accordance with IAEA safety standards."

"We appreciate the IAEA's support, especially considering the constraints imposed by the global pandemic situation," said Ján Milčák, head of CVR's Reactor Operation Section. "The INSARR mission provided us with valuable recommendations and suggestions for further enhancement of operational safety, and we are committed to implementing them."

CVR intends to request a follow-up INSARR mission in 2022.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News