Chinese and Belgium companies have signed agreements to cooperate in the areas of MOX fuel fabrication and civil nuclear research.

The first agreement, signed 6 October, covers the construction of a pilot facility for MOX fuel fabrication in China. China National Nuclear Corporation hopes to build the plant with the support of Belgian companies Belgonucleaire (BN), the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) and Tractebel Engineering (TE). SCK•CEN was involved in the development of MOX fuel between 1960 and 1987; BN in the industrial production of MOX for 20 years and TE in the use of MOX fuel in Belgian nuclear power plants.

The cooperation could lead to a commercial agreement including technology transfer and technical assistance by the Belgian partners, within a relatively short term, the companies said.

Research agreement

The Chinese Academy of Sciences and SCK•CEN have also agreed to exchange expertise in the area of civilian nuclear research.

This collaborative agreement relates in particular to the scientific developments of the MYRRHA project, an innovative research infrastructure implemented by the researchers of SCK•CEN. The Belgian government gave its approval for the construction of this infrastructure in Mol on 5 March 2010.

Starting in 2023, MYRRHA will contribute to the development of innovative solutions both in the areas of nuclear energy, nuclear medicine, industry and renewable energy. This multifunctional research infrastructure will be used for research into the treatment of nuclear waste, the continuous supply of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use and the production of doped silicon, an essential component for electronic circuits in renewal energy applications.

MYRRHA will require an investment of EUR 960 million. The Belgium government will contribute 40% of this. The project will also receive funding from an international consortium, to be formed by 2014. Many countries, including China and South Korea have expressed an interest in participating in the construction of this research infrastructure, however SCK•CEN would like to maintain the European character of MYRRHA and says that 70% of the international consortium would have to be Member States of the European Union.

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