1952 – 2052: 100 years of research and innovation serving society
In 2012 the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre is celebrating 60 years of research and innovation. Thanks to its staff this foundation of public utility has, from its inception, developed into one of the most innovative research centres in this field in the world. At present SCK•CEN has 700 employees. A number of ambitious SCK•CEN projects will leave their mark on the next 4 decades.
Over the years SCK•CEN has built several innovative research facilities for the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy. Our fields of study include research, expertise and service activities related to the safe operation of nuclear plants, as well as the development of a whole range of non-energy applications of nuclear energy which play a vital role in society, both now and for the future.
These are just some of the major projects that will mark the future of SCK•CEN:
- 2023 : MYRRHA
The new international research infrastructure MYRRHA will replace the current BR2 reactor. MYRRHA will be operational in 2023 and will be an important step forward for research into the peaceful applications of nuclear energy in general and the reduction of highly radioactive waste in particular. Transmutation should make it possible to reduce the amount of waste and its radio‑toxicity so that shorter storage times are needed. MYRRHA will also make an important contribution to the continued supply of radioisotopes for medical applications and the production of doped silicon for applications mainly in the field of renewable energy.
- 2020 : 50% of the global production of doped silicon
Silicon is a natural material that, after being "doped" inside a research reactor, can be used as an ideal semi-conductor for high performance electronics. Wind turbines, solar energy systems, high speed trains, hybrid vehicles; all these technologies make use of electronics based on silicon which has been doped inside a research reactor. SCK•CEN is one of the major global manufacturers and is aiming to increase its global market share to 50% within 5 years.
- 65% of medical radioisotope production
Thanks to medical radioisotopes and scanners there has been a major evolution in the field of medical imaging in recent decades. This means that every year a clear diagnosis can be made for millions of people. With its BR2 reactor, SCK•CEN can meet up to 65% of global demand for molybdenum-99. This is by far the most widely used radioisotope in the medical world. In the future much is expected of so-called alpha-emitters for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. These alpha-emitting radio-isotopes will also be produced in the BR2 reactor.
- The effects of radiation on humans
SCK•CEN has been investigating the effects of radiation on humans for many years. In terms of therapy the aim is improve the outcome of treatment by irradiating more selectively and simultaneously to reduce the total dose. In terms of diagnosis the aim is to provide the same examination quality but with a lower dose to patients and staff.
- Mission to Mars
SCK•CEN's research into the effects of radiation is also making an important contribution to the realization of long-term manned space flight, including to Mars. SCK•CEN is researching not only the impact of radiation on all life on board, but also the possibility of using bacteria to produce oxygen and recycle food and water.
A new generation of researchers
In order to complete these long-term projects successfully, existing knowledge has to evolve and must also be passed on. To accomplish this SCK•CEN has its own Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology. This academy works closely with Belgian and international universities and is able to call on both internal as well as external experts in the nuclear field, not only from academia but also from industry and government. The Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology also offers PhD students the opportunity to carry out their doctoral research under the mentorship of experts from SCK•CEN. The Centre also makes its unique infrastructure available to these students. The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre currently has 76 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. In addition, the academy offers numerous courses for professionals working in the nuclear sector, including courses on radiation protection, emergency planning and waste management.
Eric van Walle
Dirk Wouters, Communication Manager, 0476 22 57 86
Cathy Schoels, 0477 68 02 80