BR2 refurbishment operation

Research reactor BR2 is to undergo a thorough maintenance and modernisation operation until mid-2016. To guarantee a safe and efficient operation, various systems and components will be replaced as a precaution.

Like any other major nuclear infrastructure in Belgium, reactor BR2 is subject to decennial safety assessments. In preparation for the upcoming assessment, we started a systematic screening of the installation three years ago. During this screening, a risk analysis of all structures, systems and components of the BR2 was carried out, with particular attention to the impact of ageing on safety. In addition, the impact of ageing on the availability and efficiency of BR2 was also screened.

In order to be able to use the reactor safely and efficiently in the coming period of 10 years, a preventive replacement of the beryllium matrix was required (see illustration). This matrix forms the heart of the reactor, and is composed of 79 channels, in which nuclear fuel elements, control rods and various experiments can be placed. At the same time, a number of preventive maintenance and modernisation activities have been defined. If we include the upgrade that took place in the late 1960s, this is now the fourth major maintenance and renovation of BR2 and the third replacement of the BR2 matrix.

The discharge of the reactor will start in mid-March. This essentially means the removal of the fuel and the experimental set-ups. The current beryllium matrix will then be discharged. This operation will last until August 2015. After all the required inspections and verifications have taken place, the new matrix can be installed in the reactor at the start of 2016. The work that is necessary to bring the reactor back into operation will take a total of 16 months, until mid-2016, which is the start date of the next operation period.

Reactor BR2 is an important producer of medical radioisotopes. SCK•CEN announced this operation on time to the international community of producers to allow them to adapt their production planning. It is therefore unlikely that there will be any notable supply problems. The timing of the BR2 update is also prompted by the expected drop of the worldwide productive capacity from 2016, which means that SCK•CEN will be able to ensure a sustainable production of medical radioisotopes from then on.

More information about BR2