Full financing approved for Pallas reactor

21 September 2023

The Netherlands government will fully finance the cost of Pallas research reactor at Petten. Minister of Health, Welfare & Sport Ernst Kuipers has confirmed full financing for the construction of the reactor. The positive decision was expected. In February, the Nuclear & Radiation Protection Authority (ANVS - Autoriteit Nucleaire Veiligheid en Stralingsbescherming) granted a construction licence for the reactor and Rijkswaterstaat issued the Water Act permit for the intake and discharge of cooling water.

Work started on the foundations in May and the Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport instructed Pallas to continue with project preparations to avoid unnecessary delays.

The Pallas reactor is intended to replace the existing 45 MWt High Flux Reactor (HFR), operated by NRG on behalf of the European Union’s Joint Research Centre, which began operation in September 1960. While HFR has provided about 60% of European and 30% of the world's use of medical radioactive sources, the 55MWt tank-in-pool type Pallas reactor will be able to deploy the neutron flux more efficiently and effectively than the HFR.

Bertholt Leeftink, CEO NRG|Pallas said the funding decision “is confirmation that the Pallas-reactor is of strategic importance for the Netherlands and Europe”. It will” strengthen the security of medical isotopes supply for nuclear medicine. For patients, it means faster access to innovative (cancer) treatments”.

He added: “On the world market for medical isotopes and nuclear technological research, the Netherlands holds a strong position. This decision enables us to expand this position. Moreover, the PALLAS-reactor is essential for the Dutch nuclear knowledge infrastructure. This will preserve high-quality knowledge and employment in the North Holland headland.” Peter Dijk, PALLAS Programme Director said with the funding will make it possible to “proceed with the preparatory works and attract a contractor for realisation of the new build”.

NRG said the use of nuclear medicine is booming, especially for new therapies. Some 200,000 patient treatments with therapeutic isotopes take place each year in Europe and this number is expected to increase by 8% a year. Targeted and personalised therapies are very promising because they can be used much more precisely than traditional treatments.

The new reactor is also needed for nuclear technological research and is essential for maintaining the nuclear knowledge infrastructure. NRG noted. NRG|PALLAS has specific expertise in nuclear energy technology, nuclear safety, radiation protection and radioactive waste management.

The new reactor will be located at the Energy & Health Campus (EHC) in Petten. More than 1,600 employees are employed by different companies on the EHC. To strengthen the supply chain and maintain and increase the innovative power and production capacity for medical isotopes, work is also underway in Petten on the realisation of the Nuclear Health Centre production facility. In addition, NRG|Pallas is building The Field-Lab which will be the basis for collaboration with university medical centres and pharmaceutical industry partners towards new applications of nuclear medicines.

Image: Artist's impression of the new Pallas plant which will replace the ageing high-flux reactor at Petten (courtesy of Pallas)

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