JEEP-II research reactor faces uncertain future

13 March 2019

Norway's Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) has delayed the restart of the JEEP-II research reactor at Kjeller after corrosion was discovered on several components during a maintenance outage. The reactor will require "extensive and costly" repairs if it is to be restarted.

The JEEP-II reactor at Kjeller (Image: IFE)

The only neutron scattering facility in the Nordic countries, JEEP-II is part of the national Norwegian research infrastructure NcNeutron for fundamental research in physics and materials technology. The partners in NcNeutron include the University of Oslo, the University of Stavanger, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and independent research organisation SINTEF. JEEP-II is also part of Norway's contribution to the development and construction of the European Spallation Source research centre in Lund, Sweden, which is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

"This is a grave situation regarding continued operation," said IFE President Nils Morten Huseby. "The findings require extensive repairs and improvements before restarting operations. We are still carrying out the planned inspections, but we recognise that repair is an expensive and time-consuming process. Safety always comes first at IFE, and we have concluded that it is not an option to restart the reactor without extensive improvements."

In late-January, IFE said it had postponed the restart of JEEP-II - planned for 7 February - owing to the discovery of corrosion in "reactor components important to safety". At that time, the Institute said the inspections would continue until the end of January and a report would be finalised in mid-February.

In an 11 March statement, IFE said that so far the investigations had indicated "extensive and costly improvements" were needed to put the research reactor back into operation. It will investigate the findings of the inspections with the assistance of external experts and will continue with further inspections.

IFE said the fuel had been removed from the reactor and the heavy water coolant and moderator had been drained.

"The plant is now in shutdown mode, without a given date for when or if the operations resume," it said. "Based on the plant's present condition, the reactor will not be restarted in 2019."

Huseby added that the IFE's board had been informed of the situation and had requested "all relevant measures" be carried out to clarify the situation. A plan for repairs with associated costs will be presented at a board meeting scheduled for 25 April.

The 2000 kWt reactor at the Kjeller research centre, about 25km north-east of Oslo, was commissioned in 1967. Its main purposes are basic research in neutron physics, the production of medical and industrial isotopes, and irradiation services and experiments. In December, IFE received a renewed licence to operate JEEP-II for ten more years.

IFE also hosts the Halden nuclear fuel and materials testing reactor. The project was an undertaking of national organisations in 19 countries sponsoring a jointly financed programme under the auspices of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. The programme was renewed every three years. As the host country, Norway covered about 30% of the programme cost. In June 2018, IFE announced it would not apply to extend the reactor's operating licence, which was due to expire in 2020, and the reactor, which had been offline due to a safety valve failure, would not be restarted. Continued operation of the reactor - which started up in 1959 - would not be viable, IFE said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News