The Institute of Nuclear Energy Research is the nation's sole institution dedicated to nuclear research. It was established in 1965 at the same site as the Chungshan Institute, some 43 kilometers southwest of Taipei, inside a shared security perimeter.
Construction of the "Taiwan Research Reactor" (TRR) at INER began in September 1969, and the reactor began operating in April 1973. The 40-megawatt-thermal, natural-uranium heavy-water moderated research reactor, supplied by Canada, was the same model that India used to produce plutonium for its first nuclear explosion in 1974.
The reactor core was enclosed in a zircaloy calandria which was a cylindrical tank containing heavy water and 199 vertical tubes for natural uranium fuel rods, control rods and irradiation sample rods. The fuel rods were cooled by light water going through these vertical tubes. The maximum thermal neutron flux was 6×10 13 neutrons per square centimeter per second. The major application of TRR included radioisotope production, nuclear fuel and material test, water and radiological chemistry study, neutron activation analysis, neutron radiography, and so on.
The TRR continued in operation until 1988, at which time it was permanently shut down.
By 1985 INER had a staff of over 1,100 people. The institute has contemporary scientific equipment, a research reactor, and laboratories in which development work is done in the area of the production of nuclear fuel and the study of the technology for radiochemical processing of irradiated uranium. This institution has received approximately NT$500 million in funding for FY 1998, and is in charge of 600 personnel performing research in the areas of nuclear safety, radiation protection, nuclear waste management, isotope applications and other nuclear technology development and dissemination.
Since the shutdown of the Taiwan Research Reactor (TRR) in 1988, the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER) has been planning to remodel the TRR to a new pool type, light water cooled and heavy water moderated reactor, dubbed as TRR-II. The TRR-II project comprises:
- removal and dismantling of the existing reactor shielding blocks;
- design and construction of an improved reactor core and system;
- installation of experimental facilities; and
- personnel training and application services.
It will be a multi-purpose research reactor having a thermal power of 20 MW. The peak thermal neutron flux will be greater than 1x1014 n/cm2/sec and it will have a cold neutron source. Research and application programs include: neutron beam experiments, nuclear fuel and material development, water and radiation chemistry, neutron activation analysis, radioisotope research and production, boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), neutron transmutation silicon doping. The implementation of the project is scheduled to cover a span of 7 years, from July 1998 to June 2005. The total budget of the project is around $100 millions.
A research reactor improvement plan is currently being implemented. The current improvement plan proposes to remove this reactor's old heavy water core and replace it with a domestically designed light water, low enrichment uranium core. The renovated reactor, named TRR-II, will generate high quality neutron beams used in diffraction and scattering experiments. In addition, the reactor will be used for the production of isotopes and for experiments on the water chemistry of the reactor core and irradiation tests of nuclear fuel and materials. Academic users will be encouraged to take advantage of similar facilities overseas, and to use the low power research reactor at National Tsing-Hua University to develop new and improved technologies for the future use of TRR-II.
After a long series of review and modification processes, the TRR-II project finally got a green light from the government in October 1998. The total budget of the project is about one hundred million US dollars and the duration will be seven years from July of 1998. The Taiwan Research Reactor TRR-II was due to go critical in 2006. In August 2001 a panel under the central government's Atomic Energy Council (AEC) decided to suspend the construction of Taiwan Research Reactor II.
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