Research reactors are nuclear reactors that serve primarily as a neutron source. They are also called non-power reactors, in contrast to power reactors that are used for electricity production, heat generation, or maritime propulsion.
The neutrons produced by a research reactor are used for neutron scattering, non-destructive testing, analysis and testing of materials, production of radioisotopes, research and public outreach and education. Research reactors that produce radioisotopes for medical or industrial use are sometimes called isotope reactors. Reactors that are optimised for beamline experiments nowadays compete with spallation sources.
Research reactors are simpler than power reactors and operate at lower temperatures. They need far less fuel, and far less fission products build up as the fuel is used. On the other hand, their fuel requires more highly enriched uranium, typically up to 20% U-235, although some use 93% U-235; while 20% enrichment is not generally considered usable in nuclear weapons, 93% is commonly referred to as "weapons grade". They also have a very high power density in the core, which requires special design features. Like power reactors, the core needs cooling, typically natural or forced convection with water, and a moderator is required to slow the neutron velocities and enhance fission. As neutron production is their main function, most research reactors benefit from reflectors to reduce neutron loss from the core.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy initiated a program in 1978 to develop the means to convert research reactors from using highly enriched uranium to the use of low enriched uranium, in support of its nonproliferation policy. By that time the U.S. had supplied research reactors and highly enriched uranium to 41 countries as part of its Atoms for Peace program. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy extended its Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance program until 2019.
While in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s there were a number of companies that specialized in the design and construction of research reactors, the activity of this market cooled down afterwards, and many companies withdrew.
The market has consolidated today into a few companies that concentrate the key projects on a worldwide basis.
The most recent international tender (1999) for a research reactor was that organized by ANSTO for the design, construction and commissioning of the OPAL reactor. Four companies were prequalified: AECL, INVAP, Siemens and Technicatom. The project was awarded to INVAP that built the reactor. In recent years, AECL withdrew from this market, and Siemens and Technicatom activities were merged into AREVA.
- see also the sections on Research Reactors in List of nuclear reactors.
Research centers that operate a reactor:
|Reactor Name||Country||City||Institution||Power Level||Operation Date|
|BR2 Reactor||Belgium||Mol||Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK•CEN||100 MW|
|Budapest Research Reactor||Hungary||Budapest||Budapest University of Technology and Economics||5 MW||1959|
|ILL High-Flux Reactor||France||Grenoble||Institut Laue-Langevin||63 MW|
|RA-6||Argentina||Bariloche||Balseiro Institute, / Bariloche Atomic Centre||1 MW||1982|
|ZED-2||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Chalk River Laboratories||200 W||1960|
|McMaster Nuclear Reactor||Canada||Hamilton, Ontario||McMaster University||5 MW||1959|
|National Research Universal Reactor||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Chalk River Laboratories||135 MW||1957|
|Petten nuclear reactors||Netherlands||Petten||Dutch Nuclear Research and consultancy Group, EU Joint Research Centre||30 kW and 60MW||1960|
|ORPHEE||France||Saclay||Laboratoire Léon Brillouin||14 MW||1980|
|FRM II||Germany||Garching||Technische Universität München||20 MW||2004|
|HOR||Netherlands||Delft||Reactor Institute Delft, Delft University of Technology||2 MW|
|BER II||Germany||Berlin||Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin||10 MW|
|Mainz||Germany||Mainz||Universität Mainz, Institut für Kernchemie||100 kW|
|TRIGA Mark II||Austria||Vienna||Technical University Vienna, TU Wien, Atominstitut||250 kW||1962|
|IRT-2000||Bulgaria||Sofia||Bulgarian Academy of Sciences research site||2 MW|
|OPAL||Australia||Lucas Heights, New South Wales||Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation||20 MW||2006|
|IEA-R1||Brazil||São Paulo||Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares (IPEN)||3.5 MW||1957|
|IRT-2000||Russia||Moscow||Moscow Engineering Physics Institute||2.5 MW||1967|
|SAFARI-1||South Africa||Pelindaba||NECSA||20 MW||1965|
|HANARO||South Korea||Daejeon||Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI)||30 MW||1995|
|LVR-15||Czech Republic||Řež||Nuclear Research Institute ||10 MW||1995|
|HFIR||United States||Oak Ridge, Tennessee||Oak Ridge National Laboratory|
|ATR||United States||Idaho||Idaho National Laboratory|
|University of Missouri Research Reactor||United States||Columbia, Missouri||University of Missouri|
|Washington State University Reactor||United States||Pullman, Washington||Washington State University|
|CROCUS||Switzerland||Lausanne||École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne|
|Maria reactor||Poland||Świerk-Otwock||POLATOM Institute of Nuclear Energy||30 MW|
|TRIGA Mark I||United States||Irvine, California||University of California, Irvine|
|ITU Reactor||Turkey||Istanbul||Istanbul Technical University|
|ETRR-1||Egypt||Inshas||Nuclear Research Center||2 MW||1961|
|ETRR-2||Egypt||Inshas||Nuclear Research Center||22 MW||1997|
|GHARR-1||Ghana||Accra||National Nuclear Research Institute of the Ghanan Atomic Energy Commission||30 kW|
Decommissioned research reactors:
|Reactor Name||Country||City||Institution||Power Level||Operation Date||Closure Date|
|CONSORT||United Kingdom||Ascot, Berkshire||Imperial College||100 kW|
|JASON reactor||United Kingdom||Greenwich||Royal Naval College||10 kW||1962||1996|
|MOATA||Australia||Lucas Heights||100 kW||1961||1995|
|DIDO||United Kingdom||Harwell, Oxfordshire||Atomic Energy Research Establishment||1990|
|Nuclear Power Demonstration||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Rolphton plant||20 MW||1961||1987|
|NRX||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Chalk River Laboratories||1952||1992|
|PLUTO reactor||United Kingdom||Harwell, Oxfordshire||Atomic Energy Research Establishment||26 MW||1957||1990|
|Pool Test Reactor||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Chalk River Laboratories||10 kW||1957||1990|
|WR-1||Canada||Pinawa, Manitoba||AECL's Whiteshell Laboratories||60 MW||1965||1985|
|ZEEP||Canada||Deep River, Ontario||AECL's Chalk River Laboratories||1945||1973|
|More Hall Annex||United States||Seattle||University of Washington||100 kW||1961||1988|
|Ewa reactor||Poland||Świerk-Otwock||POLATOM Institute of Nuclear Energy||10 MW||1958||1995|
|FiR-1||Finland||Espoo||Helsinki University of Technology||250 kW||1962||2015|