IAEA mission observes commitment to safety in the Dutch research reactor and recommends further improvements

IAEA mission observes commitment to safety in the Dutch research reactor and recommends further improvements



A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the operator of the Hoger Onderwijs research reactor in the Netherlands has made safety a priority when carrying out major refurbishments and modernizations of the facility. The team also found areas where further improvement was needed, including the organizational structure and security procedures and documentation.

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A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the operator of the Hoger Onderwijs research reactor in the Netherlands has made safety a priority when carrying out major refurbishments and modernizations of the facility. The team also found areas where further improvement was needed, including the organizational structure and security procedures and documentation.

The Integrated Safety Assessment for Research Reactors (INSARR) mission team consisted of four experts from Argentina, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Slovenia and three IAEA officials. The seven-day mission to the Hoger-Onderwijs-Reaktor (HOR), which was completed on September 14, comprised the regulatory supervision as well as the existing organizational and management arrangements. It also checked technical areas, including safety analyzes, operation and maintenance programs, radiation protection, and use and change safety.

The HOR is operated by the Delft Reactor Institute (RID) of the Delft University of Technology. It is mainly used for research in nuclear science and engineering, neutron activation analysis, and in the development of new radioisotopes and production methods. RID was designated as an IAEA Collaboration Center in 2010 and its stable isotope tracer methods contribute to the IAEA’s activities in forensic science.

The reactor was commissioned in 1963 and has been rebuilt several times since then. These included the switch from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium in 2005 and modernization of the nuclear measurement and control systems in 2010. The reactor underwent regular national safety reviews in 1999, 2010 and 2021 in 2019 for the rebuilding program of its systems and components, including cooling circuits and the security dome.

The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), the Dutch regulatory authority, has commissioned the IAEA to carry out the INSARR mission.

“RID has shown a strong commitment to safety in carrying out the refurbishment and modernization of the reactor’s systems and components,” said David Sears, senior nuclear safety officer of the IAEA Research Reactor Safety Section. “It is expected that RID will expand these efforts to ensure safety during the ongoing commissioning of these modifications and during the entire process of the reactor recommissioning, which is planned for the end of this year after an extended period of decommissioning.”

The INSARR team visited the reactor and associated facilities and met with RID staff and ANVS officials.

The IAEA team noted the effective implementation of administrative and technical measures to ensure security despite COVID-19 restrictions during the change project. A commitment to safety was also noted in areas such as regular safety reviews and aging management.

The mission team made recommendations and suggestions for improvement, including:

  • Strengthening the organizational structure for operations by clarifying roles and responsibilities for security in order to avoid possible role and task conflicts.
  • Improve the program for resuming operations after prolonged downtime by retraining reactor operating personnel and updating reactor safety documents and operating procedures to reflect recent changes.
  • Improve aging management by addressing obsolescence of systems and components and utilizing feedback from reactor operations and safety assessments.

“We appreciate the support of the IAEA, especially given the constraints imposed by COVID-related restrictions,” said Bert Wolterbeek, the HOR reactor manager and director of RID. “The INSARR mission provided us with valuable recommendations and suggestions for further improving operational safety, safety culture and safety management; we are committed to it. “

RID confirmed that it will apply for a follow-up mission from INSARR in 2023.

About INSARR missions

INSARR missions are an IAEA peer review service carried out at the request of a Member State to assess and assess the safety of research reactors based on the IAEA safety standards. General information on INSARR missions can be found on the IAEA website.

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