GUINEVERE: a new world premiere at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre
The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) in Mol, successfully coupled a reactor to a particle accelerator. For the first time in the history of nuclear science, a demonstration model of a reactor, with a lead core and a particle accelerator, is in operation. The installation is subcritical because the reactor stops when the accelerator is turned off. This world premiere is part of the GUINEVERE project, initiated in collaboration with the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), a dozen other European laboratories and the European Commission.
Guinevere is a demonstration model of an accelerator driven system or ADS. The accelerator was built by the CNRS. The CEA assisted in developing the concept and provided the fuel for the reactor. The inauguration of GUINEVERE took place in March 2010 at SCK•CEN in Mol. During the first year the accelerator, as well as the ventilation and monitoring of the installation, were tested exhaustively. In February 2011, the reactor was started in the classic critical mode and was subjected to a long series of tests.
Today, SCK•CEN and its research partners are pleased to announce that the accelerator and the reactor have been successfully connected, making the system now subcritical.
GUINEVERE, designed to support the MYRRHA project, is a test installation with a limited power. It is very important for the fine-tuning of the operation and control of future subcritical reactors, such as MYRRHA. This type of reactor is very safe because the reactor section of an ADS system depends for its operation on a particle accelerator: when it is turned off, the reactor will stop immediately.
Unlike conventional reactors systems, GUINEVERE and MYRRHA produce fast neutrons that can be used for the transmutation of high level radioactive waste. Transmutation is the fission of long-lived radioactive waste into products that are much less radio-toxic. This research complements the decision in favor of the geological disposal of this type of waste.
The successful launch of GUINEVERE is another important step towards the realization of MYRRHA, SCK•CEN's multipurpose research facility, which will be operational in 2023.
Prof. Dr. Hamid Aït Abderrahim
Deputy Director-General SCK•CEN and Director of the MYRRHA project
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Communication Manager SCK•CEN
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