IAEA DG Grossi and Belgian Prime Minister Mark 70th Anniversary of SCK-CEN Nuclear Research Centre

Maintaining nuclear knowledge is key to ensuring the nuclear industry can consistently provide many solutions to societal challenges, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said this morning. Mr Grossi joined Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the SCK-CEN Nuclear Research Centre in Mol, Belgium, to celebrate the Centre’s 70th anniversary.

“SCK-CEN has positioned itself as a reference centre in the field of nuclear knowledge and expertise,” Mr Grossi said. “Maintaining and developing nuclear knowledge is of crucial importance to ensure we are developing the technical expertise to contribute innovative applications for society, harnessing the power of atoms.”

Mr De Croo highlighted the SCK-CEN as a Belgian landmark that had inspired generations of researchers in their commitment to scientific progress. “Today is not only important to look back on our nuclear tradition. We are here to prepare for the future,” he said, emphasising the critical role of the nuclear sector in helping to address some of the world’s biggest challenges, including health and climate change.

SCK-CEN is one of the largest research centres in Belgium. The Belgian government established the Centre in 1952 and commissioned the first research reactor in Belgium, Belgian Reactor 1 (BR1), in 1956. The Centre focuses on forward-looking research regarding the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, particularly the safety of nuclear installations, management of radioactive waste, and human and environmental protection against ionising radiation.

SCK-CEN is constructing a multi-purpose research plant called MYRRHA, which stands for Multi-purpose HYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications. It is the world’s first research reactor driven by a particle accelerator. MYRRHA will play an important role in the training and conducting of research on technologies to process radioactive waste through transmutation – changing one element into another. SCK-CEN is studying transmutation with the aim of reducing the volume of high-level radioactive waste by 99 per cent and reducing the waste storage time needed to 300 years from the current 300 000 years. MYRRHA will also support research on materials for fusion reactors and the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications.

SCK-CEN is one of seven IAEA-designated International Centres based on Research Reactors (ICERRs). The ICERR programme, launched in 2014, helps countries gain access to research reactor infrastructure to carry out research and development, and build capacity. SCK-CEN experts also participate in the IAEA’s Technical Working Group on Fast Reactors, focusing on accelerator driven systems, which have the same neutron spectrum as fast reactors.

Yesterday, Mr Grossi met with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden. This follows a meeting last year, in which Mr Grossi met with Ms Verlinden and Mr De Croo, among other Belgian Ministers during a two-day visit that highlighted Belgium’s nuclear know-how and commitment to the IAEA. Belgium has been a member of the IAEA since 1958 and has commercially operated nuclear plants since 1974. In March this year, the country’s plan to phase-out all nuclear power plants by 2025 was postponed by 10 years.

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