Safety review of research reactors

As part of the measures taken following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011, the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK), working on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and applying an approach similar to that used for the safety review of power reactors, performed a review of the robustness of research reactors in Germany. This review, which was concluded on 3 May 2012 with the Commission's statement, covers research reactors with a continuous thermal power of more than 50 kilowatt. These are the TRIGA Mark II research reactor in Mainz (FRMZ), the BER-II experimental reactor in Berlin and the Heinz Maier Leibnitz research neutron source (FRM II) in Garching (near Munich).  

In an approach similar to that applied to Germany's power reactors, the RSK assessed the research reactors' robustness by defining assessment criteria for the robustness levels and the degrees of protection for the reactors. The installations' robustness was reviewed with regard to

  • natural hazards (such as earthquakes, floods),
  • expanded postulated events (such as station blackouts, emergency power failures),
  • emergency preparedness,
  • accident management and
  • man-made hazards (such as airplane crash, gas release).

In its 2012 statement, the RSK attested the three installations to be highly robust with regard to external flooding events, even under extreme conditions, due to the conditions prevailing at their sites and to their design. Furthermore, the Commission determined that even failures of the external power supply would not endanger their vital safety functions. 

For further specific topics of the robustness review of the research reactors and taking into consideration the significantly reduced risk potential compared to power reactors, there are differentiated assessments with plant-specific recommendations.

Monitoring of the implementation of the 2012 recommendations has shown that they have been almost fully implemented. RSK’s statement "Evaluation of the implementation of RSK recommendations of the safety review of German research reactors" of 22 March 2017 acknowledges in particular the review of the emergency response concept of all three installations, the re-evaluation of the reactors’ robustness in case of beyond-design-base earthquakes, the analyses of impacts caused by an airplane crash and the review of the robustness of the emergency preparedness measures in case of a loss of vital safety-related functions.

RSK’s recommendations from the review provide further proposals to improve the high level of robustness that the three research reactors have already achieved.