Reasearch Reactors

Research reactors are called "Non-power" reactors because they are not used for power generation and are small in comparison with NPPs. Research reactor output can range from zero up to 100 MW (thermal). Research reactors use Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) with enrichment typically up to 20%.

Research reactors are primarily used as a source of radiation (primarily neutrons and gamma rays) for research, development, education and training. A research reactor facilitates production of radioisotopes that are extensively used in medical, industrial and other applications. Research reactors are also used to produce radioisotopes for commercial purposes e.g. Molybdenum (Mo-99) whose decay product Technetium (Tc-99m) is utilized in most of the diagnostic medical procedures. Common designs of research reactors are pool-type, tank-type and tank-in-pool reactors.

Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology (PINSTECH) near Islamabad is owned by PAEC. Two (02) research reactors i.e. PARR-1 & PARR-2 are located at PINSTECH Laboratory. PARR-1 is a 10 MW pool-type research reactor of 1965 vintage, supplied by the USA under the Atoms for Peace program. PARR-2 is an indigenous 30 kW miniature neutron source reactor (MNSR) based on Chinese design and using high-enriched fuel operating since 1974.

Research reactors submit different licensing and routine submissions to PNRA as per applicable regulations which provide technical information and data about activities related to nuclear safety, radiation safety and exposure of workers. PNRA performs review & assessment of these submissions to ensure safe operation of the research reactor and various authorizations are issued to licensees during different stages of nuclear installations.

Regional Nuclear Safety Directorate (RNSD-I) at Islamabad is responsible for the conduct of regulatory inspections at research reactors. PNRA’s inspectors undertake different routine and planned inspections at research reactors according to their annual inspection plan. Unplanned and reactive inspections are carried out as and when required. Subsequently, PNRA issues inspection reports including directives to communicate the deficiencies observed during inspections to the licensees in the form of inspection reports along with necessary requirements for taking corrective actions. A follow-up process is in place to ensure satisfactory implementation of corrective actions. The departments at PNRA Headquarters also provide technical support during the regulatory inspections to the regional directorate(s), whenever needed.

 Pakistan Research Reactor-1 (PARR-1)

PARR-1 is a swimming pool type research reactor of 10 MWth which is in operation since 1965. The experimental facilities associated with the reactor include central flux trap; graphite thermal column; pneumatic tubes for irradiation of small samples; horizontal beam tubes; gamma cell for bulk irradiation of samples and hot cell which is a properly shielded facility to handle highly radioactive samples.

PNRA has revalidated operating license ofPARR-1 in January 2014 after thorough review of Periodic Safety Review (PSR) reports which is valid till December 2021.

 Pakistan Research Reactor-2 (PARR-2)

PARR-2 is a tank in pool type research reactor of 30 KWth which is in operation since 1991. The reactor is mainly used for Neutron activation analysis, training of personnel and reactor analysis studies.

During 2014, PARR-2 submitted Periodic Safety Review (PSR) reports to PNRA for revalidation of operating license. After its satisfactory review, operating license was revalidated in December 2014 which is valid till December 2024.

 Molybdenum Production Facility (MPF)

PINSTECH has the facility for production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) which is the mother product of Technetium-99m (Tc-99m). Tc-99m is used in medical hospitals for diagnosis of different types of cancers.

Mainly, Pakistan Research Reactor-1 (PARR-1) is utilized for irradiation of Uranium target plates and the irradiated target plates are further processed at MPF for the production of Molybdenum-99. This facility has the capacity to produce 100 curies of Molybdenum-99 per batch.

PNRA issued Operating License to MPF in December 2015 which is valid till December 2022. The license was issued after a thorough review and assessment and conducting regulatory inspections during all important stages to ensure that the facility can be operated safely without any undue risk to the workers and the general public.

All regulatory requirements specified by PNRA regulations, IAEA standards and Quality control standards mentioned in European Pharmacopeia are being followed during operation of MPF at PINSTECH.