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[en] Radiotherapy, radiation protection, nuclear medicine, etc.: there is a growing interest in radio(bio)logy in the health care sector. The number of medical treatments with ionising radiation per year will increase even more. It is therefore increasingly important to closely monitor the possible harmful effects of low radiation doses.
[en] Ionising radiation is increasingly being used in medicine. Apart from protecting patients against excessive radiation doses, it is also extremely important to protect medical staff against radiation. In interventional radiology and nuclear medicine, the radiation doses received by physicians and co-workers have to be accurately followed-up. The European project ORAMED provided tools and procedures to monitor and limit the exposure of medical personnel during these applications.
[en] The capital of SCK-CEN is the knowledge of its staff. There is an enormous amount of information circulating within the research centre. A centralised management for all documents is also critical to efficiently manage, share and unlock the expertise. Since 2009, SCK-CEN has been working on a document management system: Alexandria. A first test draft was completed in 2010.
[en] A major Research and Development programme, linked to MYRRHA, aims to further investigate the technological challenges in the design of the MYRRHA reactor between 2010 and 2014. Material qualification is therefore quite a big challenge. The materials specialists at SCK-CEN are looking for an answer to the question of how MYRRHA materials will behave under the demanding conditions inherent in the reactor.
[en] Safety is the highest priority in running a nuclear power plant. The condition of the steel of the reactor vessel at the heart of the plant is critical in this connection. In recent years, SCK-CEN has developed a sophisticated monitoring programme to monitor the degradation of the reactor-vessel steel of Belgian nuclear power plants. That gave rise to several demands to also implement these state-of-the-art material testing programmes in nuclear power plants abroad.
[en] Real-time monitoring is extremely important to accurately interpret irradiation experiments in research reactors. SCK-CEN has years of expertise in developing sensors to monitor neutron flux, temperature, gamma radiation, etc. It has been collaborating with the CEA since 2006. Both partners share research and research results in the Laboratoire Commun de Instrumentation. Recently, a joint patent application was made for a new type of sensor to measure gamma rays.
[en] Irrespective of the choices made in the future, questions about nuclear safety, radiation protection and waste management will always be of topical interest. SCK-CEN has consciously opted for social research on risk perception, sustainable development, and communication. SCK-CEN founded the Barometer in 2002 in order to keep both feet firmly planted in society: a regular, large-scale survey amongst the Belgian population on radiation and nuclear technology. The findings of the third edition were published in 2010.
[en] In all radioactivity applications, nuclear, but also in medicine for example, the knowledge and skills of the people is one of the main pillars. It should be possible to continue to develop their expertise for future generations. The European Union pursues an active policy in the field of nuclear education and training. SCK-CEN also participates in the same.
[en] In 1961, the BR2 reactor became critical for the first time. Yet the multi-functional research reactor at SCK-CEN is not out of date, quite the contrary. Regular upgrades and innovations keep the reactor in step with the latest advancements in technology. In 2010, the control system of BR2, a vital part of the reactor, was replaced as a preventive measure.
[en] Thanks to research and continuous development, the nuclear fuel consumption of nuclear power plants worldwide has fallen sharply in recent decades. Compared to the 1970s, the fuel rods of today now last 2.5 times longer. The economic benefit is obvious, but more importantly, it means that less radioactive waste is generated. For the past two years, at the request of GDF SUEZ, SCK-CEN has been studying whether fuel rods in Belgian nuclear power plants can be made to serve longer, without compromising safety.