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Belgian and US Research Reactors to Become International Centres for R&D under IAEA Label

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (middle) hands over to Willem  van de Voorde (left) and Eric van Walle, Director General of SCK•CEN (right) the plaque designating the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN as an IAEA International Centre based on Research Reactors. (Photo: IAEA)

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN and the US Department of Energy Idaho and Oak Ridge National Laboratories will make their research reactors, labs and education and training facilities available to scientists from other countries for training and research and development, representatives of the labs announced at the IAEA General Conference today.

Both institutions received designations as IAEA International Centres based on Research Reactor (ICERR).

“The IAEA ICERR scheme helps IAEA Member States access state-of-the-art facilities and so achieve their national nuclear research and development and capacity building objectives,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said at today’s designation ceremony. “Through advanced training, ICERRs foster knowledge, build nuclear competence and develop nuclear safety culture.”

The Belgian research reactor BR2 (Belgian Reactor 2) is one of the most powerful and flexible research reactors in the world: It produces 20 to 25% of the world’s most important radioisotopes, including medical isotopes essential for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

“This is an outstanding recognition for Belgium. The nuclear expertise and experience obtained through our research and development support the education and training activities with which we transfer knowledge and skills to current and future generations,” said Eric van Walle, Director General of SCK•CEN. “We are proud to contribute to IAEA’s goal with our unique infrastructure.”

The US Department of Energy Idaho and Oak Ridge National Laboratories receive the plaque designating them as IAEA International Centre based on Research Reactors. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Advance Test Reactor (ATR) at the Idaho National Laboratory is the most versatile test reactor in the world. It is used to study the effects of radiation on materials and is also capable of producing rare and valuable medical and industrial isotopes. The High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the world’s leading source of heavy elements used for research, medicine, and industrial applications.

“This new opportunity to facilitate the expanded use of our national labs’ research reactor facilities will enable the United States to continue to be a world leader and global partner in the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology,” said Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy of the United States.

The Belgian SCK•CEN and US Department of Energy’s Idaho and Oak Ridge National Labs join France’s CEA and the Russian Federation’s RIAR centres in welcoming researchers  under the IAEA scheme.

The ICERR scheme was launched in 2014, to help Member States, mainly without research reactors, gain timely access to research reactor infrastructure and carry out nuclear research and development as well as build capacity. Member States wishing to gain access to an ICERR have to become an Affiliate by signing a bilateral agreement with the centres designated as ICERR. The IAEA facilitates this process, also through the sharing of the information on the capabilities offered by the ICERRs.