Refurb of Polish research reactor approved

22 June 2023

Poland's Council of Ministers has adopted a resolution on the modernisation of the MARIA nuclear research reactor, enabling its operation after 2027. The purpose of the modernisation is to ensure the operation of the reactor until at least 2050.

The MARIA research reactor (Image: NCBJ)

MARIA is the only operating nuclear reactor in Poland. The high flux research reactor - located at the Świerk Research Centre about 30 kilometres south-east of Warsaw - is a water and beryllium moderated reactor of a pool type with graphite reflector and pressurised channels containing concentric six-tube assemblies of fuel elements. The 30 MWt reactor achieved first criticality in December 1974. It is currently licensed to operate until 2025 but is expected to continue operating until at least to 2030, with Poland's National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) saying it could operate for another 30 years, subject to sufficient funds for operating it and modernisation.

The resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers provides that the modernisation of the reactor will be carried out between 2023 and 2027, and the cost of this project will amount to about PLN91.7 million (USD22.6 million). The contractor for the modernisation programme will be NCBJ.

The government noted: "After more than 40 years of operation of the reactor, almost all technological systems require modernisation, including those necessary to ensure the strengthening of its safe operation."

The modernisation of MARIA is divided into five main areas: electricity supply systems; control and protection systems; ventilation system; dosimetric systems; and other modernisations (including technological facilities, the emergency warning system and the cooling tower).

The government noted that radioisotopes produced in MARIA "provide Poles with access to imaging of cancerous tumors and their treatment at prices lower than alternative foreign solutions".

An estimated 380,000 nuclear medicine procedures using isotopes from MARIA are carried out annually in Poland, while about 17 million people around the world use the products based on radioisotopes produced in the reactor.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News