|The BR2 research reactor of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre is in the limelight at the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is being held in Vienna from 14 to 18 September.
Minister of Energy, Marie Christine Marghem, visited the Belgian stand on the opening day. One of the eye-catchers is a scale model of the core of BR2, a matrix with beryllium channels. The BR2 reactor is currently undergoing a refurbishment programme which includes the replacement of this matrix. This operation ensures that BR2 will be operational for at least another 10 years after its scheduled restart in mid-2016 and assume its vital role in the production of medical radioisotopes. Until now, BR2 satisfied 25% of the global demand for molybdene-99, the most commonly used isotope, and as much as 65% in peak periods. A part of these radioisotopes are also processed in Belgium by the Institute for Radioelements (IRE). After its update, the BR2 research reactor will be capable of producing 100% of global demand.
Later in the day, the operation was explained in detail at a special event surrounding the modernization of BR2, in the presence of Minister Marie Christine Marghem, Mr Willem Van de Voorde, Belgian Ambassador to Austria, Mr Juan Carlos Lentijo, Director of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology Division of the IAEA and SCK•CEN director-general Eric van Walle. BR2 reactor manager, Steven Van Dyck, gave an overview of the reactor’s modernization operation and the outlook for isotope production and research. Minister Marghem talked about the pioneering role the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre has played for over 60 years now and was quite clear about the future.
“I am convinced that we will continue to be in the forefront of developments in innovative nuclear applications. Today, more than ever, Belgium is determined to keep the lead in this area.”