IAEA Activities on Accelerator and Research Reactor based Technologies and Applications
F. Mulhauser 1*, R. Kaiser 1, D. Ridikas 1, A. Simon 1, A. Zeman 1
1 International Atomic Energy Agency
Accelerator and Research Reactor based technologies are regarded by many IAEA Member States as a key element to serve social and economic development in a wide variety of applications in the energy, health, agriculture, environment, materials, natural resources and education sectors.
Almost all of the more than 18 000 particle accelerators in the world today are dedicated machines used for commercial applications, being either in the medical sector (radiotherapy treatments) or in the industrial sector (materials modification). Only a few percent (a few hundred) of the worldwide inventory of accelerators is used for scientific research, mainly at universities, research institutes and international organizations. However, the knowledge and technological spin-offs gained from these research accelerators drive the development of commercial applications and support the research and development needs of researchers in a wide and diverse range of fields, including strategic and applied research, safety and security, environment, materials, analytical services, advanced nuclear fuel cycles, radioisotope production and radiation processing.
From more than 670 research reactors constructed around the world, about 240 are still operating. Russia has the highest number of operational RRs (~47), followed by USA (~41), China (~17), Japan (~13), France (~11) and Germany (~9). The RRs are distributed over 56 Member States, including 40 developing countries.
Nowadays the decreasing fleet of these facilities faces a number of critical issues and important challenges such as underutilization, inexistent or inappropriate strategic-business plans, ageing and needs for modernization-refurbishment, presence of fresh or spent HEU fuel, unavailability of qualified high-density LEU fuels, accumulation of spent nuclear fuel, advanced decommissioning planning and implementation stages, and, in some cases, safety and security issues. In addition to this non-exhaustive list of issues are the plans to build new RRs by Member States with little or no experience in this domain. In response to these challenges, the IAEA is taking actions and designing activities to tackle these issues and make sure that promotion, support and assistance to Member States in the development and uninterrupted operation of strong, dynamic, sustainable, safe and secure RRs dedicated to peaceful uses of atomic energy and nuclear techniques is preserved.
The IAEA is pursuing efforts on utilizing accelerators and research reactors to support the basic and applied research, provide intense neutron sources, characterize and qualify materials of nuclear interest and concomitantly, the training and qualification of a highly educated nuclear workforce.
This paper will give a brief overview of the IAEA activities, including future perspectives in this domain.