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Exploring 2040: more focus for more social impact

13 December '22

Nuclear research centre presents 'Exploring 2040', a future and investment plan focusing on dismantling and waste, innovative nuclear systems and nuclear medicine.

Today the brand-new Director-General Peter Baeten presented his future plan for the nuclear research centre SCK CEN: Exploring 2040. In the coming years, it will invest heavily in new infrastructure. "This infrastructure is a necessity to increase our social impact in three areas," it reads. SCK CEN wants to make a difference in global warming, the impending dismantling and the fight against cancer.


"Focused innovation and investment"

All this and much more can be read in SCK CEN's brand-new strategic plan, which Peter Baeten unveiled today. With that plan, SCK CEN, the Belgian nuclear research centre, wants to increase the social impact of its research and applications. "Focused innovation and investment is the way to go," says Peter Baeten. "At the same time, we keep all the knowledge and experience on board. Our employees are the beating heart of our research centre and make our ambition a reality."


Focus on three areas

'Focused' is, without a doubt, the buzzword in the revamped strategy. From now on, SCK CEN will develop its research activities and efforts with a focus on three areas: innovative nuclear systems, nuclear waste management and dismantling, and decisive fight against cancer. "With innovative nuclear systems, such as small modular reactors, we want to play an important role in climate-neutral electricity production," clarifies Derrick-Philippe Gosselin, Chairman of the SCK CEN Board of Directors.

The current Belgian nuclear power plants that will be decommissioned must then be dismantled. Peter Baeten continues: "We make it our mission to prepare Belgian players for the domestic and foreign dismantling market. We do this by translating our knowledge into industrial applications and guiding companies in their specialisation journey as dismantling professionals."

Furthermore, the research centre aims to expand its role in nuclear medicine.

"Our BR2 research reactor has long been an indispensable production hub for medical radioisotopes. We will continue to fulfil that role, but our ambition is also to evolve into a pharmaceutical player in pre-clinical research and pilot production of new radiopharmaceuticals for cancer therapies," Peter Baeten explains.

In addition to assignments for clinical and industrial partners, SCK CEN is also envisioning its own cancer research line. That line of research will focus on innovative treatments for three specific cancers: glioblastoma (brain cancer), colon cancer and ovarian cancer. "Today, many of these cancers are still untreatable. We want to change that."

2022_SCK-CEN_Infrastructuur Exploring 2040

Infrastructure as a differentiator

The nuclear research centre SCK CEN is therefore taking its social ambition one step further. It holds all the cards to succeed: (more than) 70 years of experience, meaningful partnerships and a unique infrastructure. The strategic plan includes space to renew and expand the existing infrastructure with the financial support of the government.

Peter Baeten: "Our infrastructure is our distinguishing mark which has allowed us to make history and play our role as a nuclear innovator. We will therefore continue to invest in that."

Lots of building plans are on the table such as an innovation hub for dismantling, production facilities for the further separation and purification of medical radioisotopes, RECUMO to purify the residues from the production of medical radioisotopes, and so on. The strategic plan also explicitly promises to further implement MYRRHA by expanding the particle accelerator up to 600 MeV - linked to an additional irradiation facility. That facility allows us to produce (more) innovative medical radioisotopes for research and conduct fundamental research.


Belgian demonstration model of SMR

Finally, SCK CEN aims to build a Belgian demonstration model of a new type of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) in Mol by 2040. That reactor type, a lead-cooled reactor based on fast neutrons, will be a world first. The advantage of lead as coolant choice is that the nuclear fuel burns up more efficiently, leaving less nuclear waste at the end of the day. With the demonstration model, the nuclear research centre SCK CEN aims to pave the way for the commercial rollout of such innovative nuclear reactors. The demonstration model will be developed in collaboration with national and international industrial partners.

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