Strong in knowledge and infrastructure
Access to unique facilities is a decisive facilitator to acquire knowledge, perform pioneering research and push boundaries.
BR1 – High-end versatility
The Belgian Reactor 1 (BR1) is the first research reactor in Belgium. This air-cooled graphite-moderated reactor was commissioned in 1956 and excels in flexibility. At first, the research reactor was used primarily for research into reactor and neutron physics and the production of radio-isotopes. Now, it is being used for the irradiation of components, the calibration of measuring instruments and for performing analyses and training nuclear experts. BR1 operates by order of other research centres, universities and the industry.
BR2 – A reactor vessel filled with knowledge
Belgian Reactor 2 (BR2) is a materials testing reactor. Since its start in 1962, it has been one of the most powerful research reactor in the world. By testing fuels and materials, BR2 contributes to ensuring the safety of current and future nuclear facilities. The research reactor is also an important player in supplying radio-isotopes all over the world, especially for the medical sector. In nuclear medicine, radioisotopes are used for the diagnosis and treatment of several diseases, including cancer. The two main radioisotopes in our portfolio are: molybdenum-99, the source of the most important diagnostic radioisotope technetium-99m, and lutetium-177, an actively used radioisotope in the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer and a very promising one for numerous other cancers in the future. The BR2 research reactor covers up to 85% of the global demand for molybdenum-99 and, thanks to 200 operating days per year, covers on average 40% of the production annually. Other applications of BR2 are the production of radioisotopes for industry and the production of high-quality semiconductors (doped silicon). These semiconductors are the basic materials for the components of high-power electronics, such as those found in systems for solar and wind energy, hybrid cars and high-speed trains.
BR3 – Learning experience for dismantling projects
The Belgian Reactor 3 was the first pressurised water reactor in Europe. It was taken into service in 1962 and shutdown for good in 1987. The reactor served as a prototype for the reactors in Doel and Tihange. The European Commission selected BR3 as a pilot project to show the technical and economic feasibility of the dismantling of a reactor under real conditions. At this moment, the project is in its third stage: restoring the site in its original state. SCK CEN disseminates the expertise that it has developed with the decommissioning of BR3 both on a national and international level. These valuable insights are also an excellent guideline for the design of new nuclear plants.
MYRRHA – Globally unique infrastructure
MYRRHA stands for Multi-purpose HYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications. MYRRHA is a versatile research facility but above all unique. It is the world's first research reactor driven by a particle accelerator. MYRRHA paves the way for countless promising technologies and applications, for instance for optimising the management of nuclear waste, producing new medical radio-isotopes and performing materials research.
VENUS – Mini MYRRHA
The research reactor VENUS, which stands for Vulcan Experimental Nuclear Study was commissioned in 1964. VENUS is used as a flexible experimental installation for nuclear reactor physics studies of new reactor systems and for testing reactor calculations. The installation was re-built and modernised several times but particularly 2007 marks a new phase in its history. As part of the GUINEVERE project, SCK CEN decided to re-build the VENUS reactor into a scale model of Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS). The particle accelerator was first connected in 2011. The successful conversion was a major step forward in the development of MYRRHA. VENUS is a "zero power reactor": it has a power consumption of only 500 Watt, about half the consumption of a simple household vacuum cleaner.
HADES – 225 metres below ground level
To test the geological disposal in layers of clay in Boom under real conditions, SCK CEN started in 1980 with the construction of a laboratory at 225 metres below ground level. The underground laboratory was given the apt name HADES, god of the underworld. Here, scientists perform research into the mechanical, chemical and microbiological characteristics of clay and the interaction between the radioactive waste and the materials in which the waste will be packed. How slowly do the radioactive substances spread in clay? How soon are the packaging materials of the radioactive waste affected? How can we build tunnels and side tunnels? The research results, computer models and simulations are promising. The radioactivity that after thousands of years would be released from the clay layer in strongly diluted concentrations, has no impact on humans or the environment. The underground laboratory HADES is now operated by ESV EURIDICE, an economic partnership between SCK CEN and NIRAS.
Snow White without the Seven Dwarfs
Since 2018, SCK CEN is in possession of Snow White (JL-900 Early Warning System), which is unique in Belgium. This installation sucks up large quantities of air (900 m³/hour) and leads it across filters. These filters are replaced and analysed on a weekly basis. Because the system sucks up such large quantities of air, SCK CEN can detect very low concentrations of radioactivity in the airborne dust. In this way, radioactive emissions, even when originating from abroad, do not remain unnoticed. Detections of low concentrations may indicate an abnormal emission, such as a hidden leak, or signal a nuclear incident.
Recognized as a role model by IAEA
In September 2017, the International Atom Energy Agency (IAEA) designated SCK CEN as one of the four International Centres based on Research Reactor (ICERR) in the world for its unique knowledge and infrastructure. With this label, the IAEA wants to give member states access to the research facilities in order to help them develop their nuclear sciences and technology programs. BR1, BR2, MYRRHA and VENUS are included in the ICERR program. SCK CEN also provides academics courses for students and customized training courses for professionals. Do you have a project? Our experts guide you along your research program and help end users to optimize the operation of their existing research reactors.