The IAEA evaluates the aging management of the Dutch research reactor

A team of seven international experts, representing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited the High-throughput reactor (HFR) in Peten, the Netherlands, to examine the way operator Nuclear Research and Advisory Group (NRG) managed the ageing of its plant.

From 21 to 28 June, the team examined all options, procedures and projects used by high-flux reactors to maintain their mechanical, electrical and civil structures and components in good condition.

The IAEA concluded that NRG has made significant progress in recent years in establishing a comprehensive aging management program that meets IAEA standards. It encourages NRG to continue and expand these activities.

The mission found NRG to have a "clear commitment and dedication" to safety in general and aging management in particular. The IAEA said it was pleased with the appointment of an ageing coordinator at the HFR reactor. The manner in which major replacement projects were carried out the implementation of the 10-year safety assessment and the reactor vessel monitoring programme were also mentioned as good practices.

"NRG has made significant progress in establishing aging management protocols and procedures in accordance with IAEA safety standards and in preparing for the continued safe operation of HFR reactors, "said Amgad Shokr, head of the inspection team and head of the IAEA research Reactor Safety Section. The IAEA team encourages the continuation of this practice, including in the implementation of activities to support ageing management at the facility, such as maintenance, inspections and regular safety reviews. The Group also noted good performance in several organizational and technical areas and made recommendations and comments for further improvement."

The IAEA evaluates the aging management of the Dutch research reactor

The group made recommendations for non-physical aging of components. Iaea found that some components had not yet entered the scope of the ageing management programme and that it was necessary to expand the programme in this regard. Programmes for civil structures need to be improved and, finally, practical recommendations are made for better monitoring of ageing in areas such as concrete structures, cables and components in storage.

NRG said it was pleased with the IAEA's positive feedback on its ageing programme and said it would follow up on the recommendations made.

The 45-megawatt HFR became operational in September 1960, and since then its use has largely shifted from nuclear material testing to basic research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor -- operated by NRG on behalf of the Eu Joint Research Centre -- has long served about 60 per cent of the use of medical radioactive sources in Europe and 30 per cent in the world. About 30,000 patients a day rely on medical isotopes from the Netherlands.

The Dutch government approved the construction of a reactor to replace the ageing HFR in January 2012. The new reactor, called Pallas, is expected to start operating around 2024.

NRG has developed an aging management plan to keep HFR safe and reliable until Pallas becomes operational.

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