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The partnership recently concluded between the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN) and the Institut National des Radioéléments (IRE) has made it possible to find a structural solution for the management of all of the highly radioactive residues stored at the IRE’s site in Fleurus (Belgium) which have resulted from the production of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.


State-of-the-art technology for nuclear medicine

Belgium is one of five global players in the production and distribution of medical radio-isotopes. Medical radio-isotopes are certain radioactive substances that can trace and treat cancer. Almost 7 million patients can undergo a medical examination thanks to the Belgian production of molybdenum-99, one of the most widely used radio-isotopes in nuclear medicine for making cancer diagnoses. SCK CEN and the National Institute for Radio Elements (IRE) work together for this. SCK CEN irradiates targets: uranium tubes of hardly 16 cm, which are subsequently treated by IRE using a chemical process. These medical radio-isotopes can then be administered directly to patients. The production of these radio-isotopes is associated with highly radioactive residues. This highly radioactive material is stored on the site of IRE in Fleurus but the stock is nearing the acceptable storage limits. Once this storage limit has been reached, the production can no longer be ensured.

Structural solution

With the public-public partnership RECUMO, SCK CEN and the National Institute for Radio Elements (IRE) reach out to one another. SCK CEN will decontaminate the current and future highly radioactive residues and thus reduce the stock. In this way, RECUMO contributes to the security of supply of medical radio-isotopes, which are indispensable in the fight against cancer. The RECUMO project is being executed in close cooperation with the General Directorate Energy of the FPS Economy, SME and Energy and under the supervision of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC). The latter impose nuclear safety and security standards and inspect their strict observance.

The RECUMO project rests on three pillars:

  • The production of radio-isotopes through the fission of uranium generates highly radioactive uranium. These irradiated residues still contain re-usable elements. Within the scope of this project, SCK CEN decontaminates and processes the contaminants according to the Belgian waste standards.

  • SCK CEN produces isotopes to trace and treat cancer and other illnesses (e.g. overactive thyroid gland and lungs). To warrant the worldwide supply of medical radio-isotopes, society counts on the supply of suitable uranium and the correct processing of uranium residues.

  • The project gives a boost to the global non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The residues are decontaminated in Mol and converted into low-enriched uranium.

Strengthen the RECUMO team:

The RECUMO project is growing so we are looking for different talents.

  • RECUMO SCK CEN (2019)


    Research into the management of nuclear materials and highly radioactive uranium residues has a positive impact on people, environment and society. A long-term project such as RECUMO therefore gives a lot of satisfaction to nuclear chemists and physicists.

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  • RECUMO SCK CEN (2019)


    Engineers follow strict quality and safety instructions in their designs. They must source all aspects of their expertise to ensure that our nuclear infrastructure can withstand any external risk (such as floods, storms and earthquakes).

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  • RECUMO SCK CEN (2019)

    Management & support

    RECUMO requires a long-term vision. Managers and supporting professionals must therefore respect the planning and manage budgets correctly. Lab technicians support our research in a unique environment.

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