IAEA mission visits Uzbek research reactor

19 March 2018

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has identified areas for improvement in the operation and maintenance of Uzbekistan's only operating research reactor. The team also addressed specific operational challenges faced by the WWR-SM.

WWR-SM - 460 (INP)
The WWR-SM research reactor (Image: Institute of Nuclear Physics)

To help Member States optimize the availability, reliability and the application of human and financial resources throughout a research reactor's operational life cycle, the IAEA has developed the Operational and Maintenance Assessment for Research Reactors (OMARR) peer review service.

OMARR reviews are available to operating organisations in all member states with research reactors under construction, commissioning or in operation. The reviews are based on IAEA and international standards and related technical reports. They also take into account detailed requirements prescribed by national or international good practices as well as special aspects on a case-by-case basis.

Recommendations and potential solutions are made on items of direct relevance to operation and maintenance, with a principal aim of improving performance. While suggestions made could also enhance plant safety, these are considered a secondary, although positive, outcome more directly related to the objective of the Integrated Safety Assessments of Research Reactors missions.

The IAEA recently conducted an OMARR mission to the WWR-SM research reactor at the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nuclear Physics. The mission - which took place at the request of the Uzbek government - was conducted by one IAEA and three international experts.

"WWR-SM management has made commendable and continuous efforts to improve the operational performance of the reactor and has taken a timely decision to undertake the review," said mission team leader Ram Sharma of the IAEA. "The team thoroughly reviewed areas identified during last year's pre-OMARR mission, and has made several recommendations and suggestions," he said. "The results of the mission will be beneficial in improving reliability and availability of the reactor for long-term operation and effective utilisation."

One of the recommendations made by the mission is for the establishment and implementation of a systematic and effective ageing management programme, and an integrated management system. These should be based on IAEA safety standards and guidelines, and continuously evaluated and improved, it said.

"This is a very timely, useful and important mission," said Bekhzod Yuldashev, president of Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, which owns the reactor. "The mission allowed us to look at our reactor with the eyes of the world's leading experts."

Uzbekistan's WWR research reactor began operating in September 1959 with a power of 2 MWt. In 1980, the reactor's power was raised to 10 MWt and it became known as the WWR-SM. In 2008, the IAEA supported the successful conversion of the reactor from highly enriched uranium fuel to low enriched uranium fuel. The reactor was shut down in 2016 and resumed operation following the decision of the government in 2017.

The WWR-SM is mainly used for isotope production, but is also used for research in nuclear physics, radiation physics, radiation material science, activation analysis and irradiation of minerals.

The IAEA said more than ten other member states have expressed interest in hosting an OMARR mission, with pre-OMARR missions already planned in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo later in March and in May, respectively.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News