Argonne supports Poland's NCNR in converting reactor to LEU

October 23, 2012

With assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the MARIA civilian research reactor in Poland was converted from operation with highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel on September 24, 2012. The irradiated HEU fuel removed from MARIA will be returned to Russia.

NNSA assisted this reactor conversion through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), whose mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites worldwide. The GTRI Reactor Conversion Program was established in 2004 by NNSA as a continuation of the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) Program that was established by the Department of Energy in 1978. Argonne National Laboratory has provided technical support since the inception of RERTR and among its current GTRI responsibilities provides technical leadership for the conversion of foreign reactors to LEU fuel.

Argonne began its collaboration with Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCNR), operator of the MARIA research reactor, in 2005 to provide technical support for the conversion. Argonne assisted in evaluating the feasibility of converting MARIA to operation with LEU fuel, selection of a suitable LEU fuel design, development of a new Safety Analysis Report, and assistance with securing approval of the Polish Nuclear Regulator for conversion.

MARIA is the 82nd research reactor that has been successfully converted from the use of HEU to LEU fuel (or shutdown prior to conversion) and demonstrates the continued acceleration of the international research reactor conversion program under GTRI.