Belgium’s nuclear research centre, SCK CEN is to research small modular reactors (SMRs) in cooperation with international partners, SCK CEN has said. To this end, it will receive a budget of €100 million from the federal government. “With its unrivalled nuclear expertise, SCK CEN will lead Belgium towards sustainable nuclear energy,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in his speech at SCK CEN's 70th anniversary celebration.

Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten said that, in addition to the substantial progress of renewable energy, the government has also decided to study other technologies which could make a contribution by 2050. “To this end, the government is making €25 million a year available for research into fourth-generation small modular reactors (SMR)s for a period of four years. This should make it possible to verify whether sustainable nuclear energy is technically feasible. The researchers of SCK CEN belong to the absolute world best and are now looking for major breakthroughs in both the technological field and in the field of passive safety, non-proliferation, minimisation of long-lived waste and economic feasibility.”

“From contributing to medicine and food security to providing clean energy, nuclear science has modernised and improved the world in a relatively short period of time. SCK CEN has been part of shaping this history and can rightly be proud of its contribution,” said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who attended the celebrations. 

Current SCK CEN Director-General Eric van Walle noted that the centre was created in 1952 to promote nuclear energy in Belgium and launch the Belgian atomic age. “Today, we are the rock for a wide range of nuclear fields. I am proud that we are constantly exploring new areas and discovering the immense potential of the atom.” 

“Indeed, after 70 years of nuclear innovation, our ambition is still strong,” said Peter Baeten, who will take over as Director-General in November. “Nuclear medicine is experiencing spectacular growth. We will therefore be strongly committed to this in the coming years, both with our BR2 research reactor and with new infrastructures.” In addition to its vital production of medical radioisotopes for diagnostics, SCK CEN will produce new radioisotopes for therapeutic applications and purify them into radiopharmaceutical products. And these are not empty promises: the construction projects are literally in the works. A second challenge we are facing is the dismantling of Belgium's nuclear power plants. “The knowledge and experience we gained from our BR3 pressurised water reactor will be used in the decommissioning of Belgium's nuclear power plants,” he added.