The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has launched a new peer review service to assist Member States in the development of infrastructure for nuclear research reactors, used for research, development, education and training.  The first Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review for Research Reactors (INIR-RR) was recently conducted in Nigeria which is planning to build the second research reactor.

Research reactors produce radioisotopes used for research, medicine, industry and agriculture. This requires appropriate infrastructure—including a legal and regulatory framework—to ensure that national and international obligations are met during planning, design, construction, operation and decommissioning.

IAEA provides guidance on the preparation of research-reactor projects by addressing 19 issues ranging from nuclear safety and security to the fuel cycle, waste management, and funding.

“While the IAEA previously carried out advisory missions to support Member States in embarking on research-reactor programmes, the INIR-RR will offer more structured and systematic assistance for assessing and further developing national infrastructure,” said Andrea Borio di Tigliole, team leader for the mission to Nigeria and Head of the Research Reactor Section in the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy. “Research reactors can foster development and play an important role in enhancing quality of life.”

The team said Nigeria is making notable progress in strengthening the infrastructure for a new research reactor, which is expected to begin operation in 2025. “We believe this review will serve Nigeria well as it moves forward with its plans for a new research reactor, which will provide important resources for health-care, industry, agriculture and human capacity building in the decades to come,” said Simon Mallam, chairman of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC).

Nigeria began operating its first research reactor in 2004, the Chinese-supplied Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR), for the analysis of materials and training. The IAEA is assisting with the conversion of the MNSR to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel and the repatriation of its irradiated High Enriched Uranium (HEU) core to China.

The new, more powerful research reactor will use LEU and be utilized for producing radioisotopes for cancer diagnosis and treatment, industrial applications, and developing skills and competencies as the country pushes forward with plans to introduce nuclear power by 2025. IAEA serves as the forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology was established by the United Nations in 1957.