(Redirected from SCK•CEN)
Belgian Nuclear Research Centre
MottoExploring A Better Tomorrow
Field of research
Nuclear science & technology
PresidentDerrick Gosselin
DirectorEric Van Walle
LocationMol, Belgium
Key People
Eric Van Walle (Director)
Derrick Gosselin (Chairman)

SCK CEN (the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre), until 2020 shortened as SCK•CEN, is the Belgian nuclear research centre located in Mol, Belgium, more specifically near the township of Donk. SCK CEN is a global leader in the field of nuclear research, services, and education.



BR 1: High-end versatility

The Belgian Reactor 1(BR1) is the first research reactor in Belgium. The air-cooled graphite-moderated reactor was commissioned in 1956 and excels in flexibility. At first, the research reactor was used primarily for research into reactor and neutron physics and the production of radionuclide. Now, it is being used for the irradiation of components, the calibration of measuring instruments, and for performing analyses and training nuclear experts. BR1 operates by order of other research centres, universities and the industry.

BR 2: A reactor vessel filled with knowledge

The Belgian Reactor 2 (BR2) is a materials testing reactor. Already since the commissioning in 1962, it is among the world’s most powerful research reactors. By testing fissile and other materials, BR2 contributes to warranting the safety of existing and future nuclear installations. The research reactor is also a vital player in the distribution of medical radio-isotopes. In nuclear medicine, radio-isotopes are used for diagnosing and treating certain diseases, including cancer. The BR2 research reactor produces on an annual basis more than 25% of the worldwide demand for molybdenum-99 and in peak periods even up to 65%. Every year, almost 7 million examinations are carried out, thanks to the Belgian Test Center. Other applications can be found in the industry and in the production of high-quality semiconductors (doped silicon). These semiconductors are the base material for electronic components of, a/o, systems for solar and wind energy, hybrid cars, and high-speed trains.

BR 3: Learning experience for dismantling projects

The Belgian Reactor 3 was the first pressurised water reactor (PWR) in Europe. It was taken into service in 1962 and shut down for good in 1987. The reactor served as a prototype for the reactors in Doel and Tihange. The European Commission selected BR3 as a pilot project to show the technical and economic feasibility of the dismantling of a reactor under real conditions. At this moment, the project is in its third stage: restoring the site to its original state. SCK CEN disseminates the expertise that it has developed with the decommissioning of BR3 both on a national and international level. These valuable insights are also an excellent guideline for the design of new nuclear plants.[1][2][3]

MYRRHA: Globally unique infrastructure

MYRRHA stands for Multi-purpose HYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications. MYRRHA is a versatile research facility but above all unique. It is the world's first research reactor driven by a particle accelerator. MYRRHA paves the way for countless promising technologies and applications, for instance for optimising the management of nuclear waste, producing new medical radio-isotopes and performing materials research.[4]


The research reactor VENUS, which stands for Vulcan Experimental Nuclear Study was commissioned in 1964. VENUS is used as a flexible experimental installation for nuclear reactor physics studies of new reactor systems and for testing reactor calculations. The installation was re-built and modernised several times but particularly 2007 marks a new phase in its history. As part of the GUINEVERE project, SCK CEN decided to re-build the VENUS reactor into a scale model of Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS). The particle accelerator was first connected in 2011. The successful conversion was a major step forward in the development of MYRRHA. VENUS is a "zero power reactor": it has a power consumption of only 500 Watt, about half the consumption of a simple household vacuum cleaner.

HADES: 225 metres below ground level

To test the geological disposal in layers of clay in Boom under real conditions, SCK CEN started in 1980 with the construction of a laboratory at 225 metres below ground level. The underground laboratory was given the apt name HADES, god of the underworld. Here, scientists perform research into the mechanical, chemical and microbiological characteristics of clay and the interaction between the radioactive waste and the materials in which the waste will be packed. How slowly do the radioactive substances spread in clay? How soon are the packaging materials of the radioactive waste affected? How can we build tunnels and side tunnels? The research results, computer models and simulations are promising. The radioactivity that after thousands of years would be released from the clay layer in strongly diluted concentrations, has no impact on humans or the environment. The underground laboratory HADES is now operated by ESV EURIDICE , an economic partnership between SCK CEN and NIRAS.

Snow White without the Seven Dwarfs

Since 2018, SCK CEN is in possession of Snow White (JL-900 Early Warning System). This installation sucks up large quantities of air (900 m³/hour) and leads it across filters. These filters are replaced and analysed on a weekly basis. Because the system sucks up such large quantities of air, SCK CEN can detect very low concentrations of radioactivity in the airborne dust. In this way, radioactive emissions, even when originating from abroad, do not remain unnoticed. Detections of low concentrations may indicate an abnormal emission, such as a hidden leak, or signal a nuclear incident.

Recognized as a role model bij IAEA

In September 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) designated SCK CEN as one of the four International Centres based on Research Reactor (ICERR) in the world for its unique knowledge and infrastructure. With this label, the IAEA wants to give member states access to the research facilities in order to help them develop their nuclear sciences and technology programs. BR1, BR2, MYRRHA, and VENUS are included in the ICERR program. SCK CEN also provides academics courses for students and customized training courses for professionals. Do you have a project? Our experts guide you along with your research program and help end-users to optimize the operation of their existing research reactors.


SCK CEN was founded in 1952 and originally named Studiecentrum voor de Toepassingen van de Kernenergie (Research Centre for the Applications of Nuclear Energy), abbreviated to STK. Land was bought in the municipality of Mol, and over the next years many technical, administrative, medical, and residential buildings were constructed on the site. From 1956 to 1964 four nuclear research reactors became operational: the BR 1, BR 2, BR 3, the first Pressurized water reactor in Europe, and VENUS.

In 1963 SCK CEN already employed 1600 people, a number that would remain about the same over the next decades. In 1970 SCK CEN widened its field of activities outside the nuclear sector, but the emphasis remained on nuclear research. In 1991 SCK CEN was split and a new institute, VITO (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek; Flemish institute for technological research), took over the non-nuclear activities. SCK CEN currently has about 850 employees.

Organisation profile

SCK CEN is a foundation of public utility with a legal status according to private law, under the guidance of the Belgian Federal Ministry in charge of energy. SCK CEN has more than 800 employees[5][6] an annual budget of €180 million.[6] The organization receives 25% of its funding directly from government grants, 5% indirectly via activities for the dismantling of declassified installations and 70% from contract work and services.[6]

Since 1991, the organization's statutory mission gives priority to research on problems of societal concern:

To these domains, SCK CEN contributes with research and development, training, communication, and services. This is done with a view to sustainable development, and hence taking into account environmental, economical and social factors.

Research activities

SCK CEN's fields of activity go from deep underground to outer space. The Centres research activities are concentrated into the following main tracks:

Nuclear Materials Science

Research is performed to improve the knowledge, understanding, and numerical simulation of the behaviour of materials under irradiation, and from there on predicting their performance. The aim is to develop, assess and validate new materials such as nuclear fuel, construction materials, and radioisotopes to be used in nuclear applications.

Advanced Nuclear Systems

Extensive contributions are made to extend the present Belgian expertise in the field of developments related to GEN IV reactor systems and ITER. In co-operation with the industry and international research teams, R&D efforts are made to develop and test innovative reactor technologies and instrumentation. This will contribute to the construction of an experimental fast spectrum installation (MYRRHA), allowing a.o. transmutation processes to be performed.[citation needed]

Environment, Health and Safety

Next to specialised R&D in the field of a.o. radiobiology and -ecology, environmental chemistry, decommissioning, radioactive waste management and disposal, SCK CEN also delivers high-quality[citation needed] measurement services such as radiation dosimetry, calibration, and spectrometry. Policy support, decision making, and research on the integration of social aspects into nuclear research contribute to meet complex problems related to radiation protection and energy policy.

Education and Training - Academy (ACA)

Throughout its more than 60 years of research experience in the field of peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, SCK CEN has also conducted education and training (ACA). The ACA activities at SCK CEN cover a. o. reactor physics, reactor operation, reactor engineering, radiation protection, decommissioning, and waste management. Next to courses, SCK CEN also offers students the possibility to perform their research work at our laboratories and research reactors. Final-year students and Ph.D. candidates can enter a programme outlined together with an SCK CEN mentor and in close collaboration with a university promotor. Post-docs are mainly recruited in specialised research domains that reflect the priority programmes and R&D topics of our[who?] institute.[citation needed]

The Atoomwijk

The Atoomwijk was built to accommodate the employees. When the Flemish Institute for Technological Research was set up, a number of apartments were transferred, but the majority of the district is still owned by the study center. In addition to housing, the district also consists of sports infrastructure.


Many scenes from the youth series Midas and De Kat were shot on the company grounds and in the labs of SCK CEN.

External links

Increased risk of cancer?

On behalf of the Belgian Ministry of Social Affairs and Public Health, Sciensano conducted the Nucabel 2 study from 9 January 2017 to 30 June 2020. This national epidemiological study focuses on the possible health risks, mainly cancer, for people living in the vicinity of Belgian nuclear sites. The results of Nucabel 2 state that the incidence in the close vicinity (< 5 km) of the Mol-Dessel nuclear site is 3 times higher than the rest of Belgium. The results are statistically significant. Nevertheless, the number of observed cases remains low.

However, the results of this study - as the Sciensano researchers also indicate - cannot establish a causal link between the occurrence of cancer cases and the proximity of the Mol-Dessel site.

Additional information on the Nucabel 2 study:

The Sciensano study was a descriptive epidemiological study in which no attention was paid to:

  1. other sources to which Belgians may be exposed, such as medical applications or background radiation;
  2. the effective dose that would be emitted in Mol/Dessel;
  3. individual factors, such as infections, genetics, and other risk factors.

After further questioning SCK CEN on points 1 and 2, the following emerged:

Every year, a Belgian is on average exposed to a dose of 4 millisieverts. Almost half of this comes from medical applications. This - like the exposure from natural background radiation - has not been taken into account. However, this represents a much larger dose burden for most critical members of the surrounding population. The doses from discharges from nuclear installations are so small that the dose burden - compared to natural and medical exposure - is almost negligible.

The effective dose of all atmospheric discharges and all exposure routes of the SCK CEN installations amounts to a maximum of 2 micro Sv (μSv) per year. This is therefore 1/50 of the limit of 100 micro Sv per year for the whole nuclear site and 1000 times less than the effective dose of natural exposure in the Kempen.

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy" . Archived from the original on 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-09-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Nuclear Power in Belgium - Belgian Nuclear Energy - World Nuclear Association" .
  3. ^ "Belgian Reactor 3 / BR3" .
  4. ^ "MYRRHA a new future for nuclear research" .
  5. ^ "Archived copy" . Archived from the original on 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2010-09-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c "Archived copy" . Archived from the original on 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2010-09-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Categories: Nuclear research institutes | Radiation protection organizations | Research institutes in Belgium | Nuclear technology in Belgium | Buildings and structures in Antwerp (province) | Mol, Belgium

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