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Material research and testing

We ensure the permanent monitoring of radioactive materials

The safe operation of a nuclear power plant depends on the integrity of all its parts. Some of them, such as the steam generators, undergo regular maintenance or are fully renewed after some time to ensure maximum safety. Strict monitoring and correct advice are essential here. SCK CEN is your reliable partner for metallurgical analyses, mechanical tests and material analyses on radioactive materials. Our team of experts, understanding better than anyone the quality standards of the industry, delivers accurate results based on comprehensive analyses.

Did you know that only the reactor vessel, i.e. the vessel in which the nuclear reaction takes place, cannot be replaced as this would be technically too complex and economically unfeasible. Fortunately, based on research into the impact of radioactivity on different materials, SCK CEN has been able to develop a monitoring programme to permanently check the ageing or embrittlement of the reactor vessel steel of Belgian nuclear power plants.

SCK CEN - Materiaaltesten (2019)

Our knowledge and methods have already led to international applications as well: our test programmes have been set up in foreign nuclear power plants in Argentina, Switzerland and Spain.

Corrosion and mechanical analyses

The purpose of corrosion and mechanical analyses and tests is:

  • Research and development of nuclear materials
  • Monitoring of qualification or licensing procedures for nuclear materials
  • Quality assurance of nuclear materials
  • Supporting structural safety analyses

To fulfil these objectives, SCK CEN offers a wide range of mechanical and corrosion tests for nuclear materials, both irradiated and non-irradiated.

Experimenting in a customised environment

Popular services are destructive post-irradiation examinations (PIE) such as: tensile, charpy impact, hardness, fracture toughness, fatigue, pellini, crack growth, swelling, creep, burst or slow strain rate testing. For these tests, we replicate nuclear environments such as lead-bismuth or PWR/BWR water chemistry to study the impact of irradiation on the mechanical behaviour in your specific situation. All tests are performed according to a strict, Belac-accredited quality assurance programme.

Other specific services

  • Monitoring programmes
    SCK CEN monitors the embrittlement of reactor vessels according to the prevailing regulations.
  • Pre-cracking service
    SCK CEN looks for future fatigue cracks using samples of the material from which the vessel has been made.


SCK CEN - Veilige uitbating (2019)

Microstructural and non-destructive analyses

The purpose of corrosion and mechanical analyses and tests is:

  • Research and development of nuclear materials
  • Qualification and licensing supporting studies on nuclear materials and licenses
  • Quality assurance of nuclear materials
  • Analysing expertise in the field of failing nuclear materials

Our test laboratories can help you with material identification, material selection, compliance certification, process verification and performance evaluations, along with determining the cause of defective parts. SCK CEN offers a comprehensive service in terms of post-irradiation examination (PIE) techniques for analysing irradiated and/or radiotoxic materials.

Radiochemical analyses

SCK CEN has an extensive range of analysis equipment in radiochemical laboratories for analysing both low- and high-level radioactive samples. Our laboratories have been equipped with fume hoods, glove boxes en hot cells. Our experience of many years allows us to determine the chemical and radiochemical composition of even the most complex materials and samples.

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