All eyes on MYRRHA during the 62nd IAEA General Conference


The multi-purpose research installation MYRRHA drew a lot of attention at the 62nd IAEA General Conference  (International Atomic Energy Agency), which was held on 17-21 September in Vienna this year. The increased interest is the result of the recent decision by the Belgian government to build this worldwide unique infrastructure, thanks to a financing of 558 million euros.

The research installation MYRRHA has a very clear ambition: to offer a technological solution to reduce nuclear waste and produce new types of medical radioisotopes. “Through a technology that drastically reduces the volume and radiotoxicity of high-level waste, MYRRHA shortens the period of storage so that, from some hundred thousand years, it goes down to some hundreds of years. MYRRHA therefore plays a crucial role for society”, explains Hamid Aït Abderrahim, SCK•CEN Deputy Director-General and Director of MYRRHA. In the future, the research infrastructure will also contribute to the research into and the production of theranostic radioisotopes (for diagnose research and therapeutic treatment).

The Belgian government acknowledges the social value of this project. The authorities consequently decided to support the project by investing 558 million euros in it. “Thanks to the Belgian financing, we can launch the construction of MYRRHA. We will start with the particle accelerator and its target facilities for fundamental and applied research as well as medical applications”, states Hamid Aït Abderrahim (SCK•CEN). Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter De Crem: “Belgium belongs to the most innovative countries in the world and plays a crucial role in the development of innovative, safe and sustainable nuclear technology through the MYRRHA project. As Special Envoy of the Federal Government to support the MYRRHA project, I focus on finding foreign partners to work jointly with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre on the further development of the prototype of a nuclear reactor driven by a particle accelerator. This increased interest is an important stimulus for foreign investors and will most certainly draw them into this very promising project.”

Framework Cooperation Agreement with the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE)

During the 62nd General Conference of the IAEA, SCK•CEN aroused the interest of many more than just the potential investors in the ambitious MYRRHA project. The Centre also extended its collaboration with current partners such as the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE, Norway) with which SCK•CEN had already worked intensively in the past. On Tuesday 18 September, Eric van Walle, SCK•CEN Director-General, and Nils Morten Huseby, CEO of IFE, signed a Framework Cooperation Agreement. This agreement is the result of IFE’s decision to permanently shut down the Halden reactor earlier this year.

“The disappearance of the Halden reactor means that the international demand goes up for various safety experiments on nuclear fuel to be continued in the BR2 reactor. By working jointly with IFE, we are in a condition to put their experience to good use to support these experiments”, claims Eric van Walle (SCK•CEN). This collaboration implies a cross-pollination of knowledge. “Our research centres have several complementary skills and competences in the field of irradiation services. Working together also implies sharing a common vision, getting to know and optimise each other’s techniques to improve our international service provision in terms of safe operation of nuclear plants.” IFE will also be able to call on the broad
knowledge and techniques developed by SCK•CEN during the decommissioning of its BR3 reactor to support the decommissioning
of the Halden reactor.

IFE continues to be committed to nuclear research even though the Halden reactor will be permanently shut down”, said Nils Morten Huseby, CEO of IFE. “International collaboration has always formed a key part of IFE’s activities and will be of even greater importance in the future, as the number of nuclear research facilities is decreasing internationally. IFE has worked with SCK•CEN for many years through the Halden Project and our two research centers have established a close working relationship. Through this agreement we will be able to increase our collaboration both in the scientific research and decommissioning fields. SCK•CEN’s experience from decommissioning the BR3 reactor will be of great relevance for IFE in the coming years, as the work to decommission the Halden Reactor will commence.”