MYRRHA Phase 1: MINERVA
The starting point of MYRRHA's particle accelerator
A particularly safe world first
MYRRHA will be the world's multifunctional first research reactor powered by a particle accelerator.
But what does that mean?
MYRRHA's reactor core does not have enough fissile material to maintain the chain reaction by itself, so you need a paricle accelerator. This 'fires' protons at the heavy lead-bismuth atomic nuclei. The protons cause neutrons to split off from the lead and bismuth atoms, which in turn cause fissions in the fuel. A chain reaction is set in motion.
When the particle accelerator is shut down, the MYRRHA reactor immediately shuts down. This makes the facility particularly safe.
How does MYRRHA's particle accelerator work?
To ensure maximum reliability, the SCK CEN scientists decided to design MYRRHA on the basis of a linear accelerator (linac). A linac can be designed with fewer interruptions in the beam’s proton flow than a cyclotron. The accelerator has a length of nearly 300 metres so that the beam can achieve sufficient energy.
The energy level of the protons is crucial to produce the neutrons for the chain reaction:
- The proton beam is fired towards the heart of the reactor;
- The impact releases neutrons;
- Those neutrons in turn maintain a fission reaction;
- Thus, the reactor is activated.
How do you build such a particle accelerator?
We do this in several phases. The 1st phase is the construction of MINERVA: a research facility that acts as the first piece of the overall particle accelerator.
MINERVA accelerates protons to an energy of 100 megaelectron volts (MeV) and is linked to 2 target stations:
- one target station for the production of radioisotopes for research and medical applications;
- and a station for research into materials for fusion applications.
To be able to accelerate the particles, a temperature close to absolute zero is required, this being 2 Kelvin – or minus 271°C.
What is the status of the construction works?
- Fall 2022
Initial licence application and detailed study
- Spring 2023
- Start earthworks
- Start perimeter
- Placement of cables and pipes
- Placing of the fences
- Installation of district heating and laying data cabling
What will MYRRHA provide?
MYRRHA is a technological first with solutions to major societal questions. From less long-lived radioactive waste and new cancer treatments to new reactor concepts and further fundamental research... We are talking about safe, diverse and much-needed research.
Consult myrrha.be for more info and the next stages of planning.