RRFM 2010 breaks new ground in North Africa!

For the first time the annual Research Reactor Fuel Management (RRFM) conference took place outside of Europe, in Marrakech, Morocco, from 21 – 25 March 2010. It was organised by the European Nuclear Society (www.euronuclear.org) in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (www.iaea.org) and CNESTEN (www.cnesten.org.ma), which as this year’s host organisation presented it’s achievement of starting up Morocco’s first ever research reactor. About 200 participants from 30 countries working in the fields of research reactor operation and fuel management used the opportunity to present their work, exchange ideas and make contacts.

RRFM 2010

As the title of the conference implies, the focus was on fuel management and the development of HEU to LEU nuclear fuel conversion in accordance with US threat reduction and spent nuclear fuel acceptance programmes. The aim of RRFM in general is to provide a forum for personal discussions between research reactor operators and relevant US programme managers, as well to improve cooperation and the exchange of ideas within the research reactor community. Thematically, the programme this year was divided into 6 sessions: International Programmes, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Utilisation of Research Reactors, Innovative Methods in Research Reactor Analysis and Design, Research Reactor Operation, Maintenance and Ageing and New Research Reactor Projects. Overall, the largest one was, of course, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, which featured the development of the Mo based fuel that is needed for the conversion of high power research reactors (and for which significant research still needs to be carried out). This was followed by status reports and the highlighting throughout the conference of plans relating to HEU to LEU conversion.

Additional hot topics under discussion at RRFM 2010 were: options for future Mo-99 production, improving the utilisation of research reactors and reactor ageing and maintenance. Several presentations were devoted to new research reactor projects in various stages of planning and construction, like PALLAS and JHR. Due to the tight schedule, which included 68 oral presentations and a poster session with 28 participants in two and a half days, several sessions had to take place in parallel on 23 March. After the RRFM 2010 closing session several meetings not related to the conference took place in order for, people to capitalise on the fact that so many interested parties were gathered together in Marrakech. These included a TRIGA users meeting. After the conference a technical visit to the Moroccan Nuclear Research Centre near Rabat took place. Unfortunately, I could not attend but colleagues told me that in spite of the long journey to get there it was well worth the visit. With the new TRIGA Mark II reactor the role of the Centre is bound to increase both as a research facility and in preparation for a possible future deployment of nuclear energy in Morocco.

The conference’s social programme was a packed one too, starting with welcome drinks after the pre-registration on the eve of the conference, followed by the AREVA – CEA sponsored Moroccan-style dinner the following day and finishing with the conference dinner. Together with the excellent catering offered during the coffee breaks and lunches, this made for a very pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in which to discuss the day’s work and to meet new people. For me personally the conference was very helpful in providing an overview over the international relations of the research reactor community and for offering very good networking opportunities because most of the European research reactors, and quite a few from all over the world, had representatives at the meetings. I would like to thank ENS staff for their great organisation of the conference and I am looking forward to next year’s RRFM, in Rome.

Thomas Stummer
TU Vienna - Atominstitut

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