A research reactor contributes to research & development, medical, industrial and agricultural spheres of a country.
The purpose of RR includes among others radioisotope production, research and development of materials, support for the development of new generation nuclear power reactors, training, etc.
However, a decision to embark on an RR shall be clearly justified and requires well-developed infrastructure, including a strong commitment to preserving safety principles in compliance with international legal instruments and standards.
Before launching a research reactor programme a country should undertake a robust pre-project assessment. This begins with the establishment of an Assessment, Marketing and Project Team (AMPT). Taking into account, that an RR may be constructed in different forms in accordance with its purpose, for instance, for meeting the requirements of one country or for the whole region, the AMPT should identify the stakeholder map for the project. The type of RR project should match the potential stakeholders' needs, that, in its turn, will help to maximize support for the project construction and help to resolve financial issues. Afterward, RR justification is conducted, design specifications and organizational issues are determined and the strategic plan for the project development is elaborated.
The infrastructure required for RR resembles the areas of nuclear infrastructure for an NPP project.However, during the assessment, it should be noted that considering RR has a broad applicability special emphasis shall be placed on stakeholders, their perspectives and value. Another consideration is that, while NPPs generate revenues that pay for its own operation, RR revenue does not cover much of its operational costs. Consequently, the financial backing for operational needs, costs of spent fuel and radioactive waste management and other issues will require significant governmental and other institutional support.
Last but not least, as nuclear fuel for RR usually contains a higher proportion of fissile isotopes thannuclear power plant fuel, security and safety shall always remain a priority, including also a development of soft infrastructures, such as competent personnel and safety culture.