Belgian Tractebel and Spanish Empresarios Agrupados yesterday signed a EUR7.6 million (USD8.4 million) contract for the design of buildings and utilities for the Myrhha accelerator-driven research reactor at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre's (SCK-CEN) site in Mol, Belgium.
It was signed during the Myrhha World Days conference being held this week with the participation of 220 policy makers, scientists and investors from 23 countries, including Carlo Rubbia, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics on whose technology the Myrrha project is based.
The main building is a tunnel that will house the first part of the accelerator and will be 150 metres long, 7.5 m wide and 3.5 m high.
Hamid Aït Abderrahim, deputy director general at SCK-CEN and director of the Myrhha project, said the contract is "the first major contribution of Myrhha to the Belgian economy".
Myrhha will contribute to developing new radioisotopes for innovative cancer treatments, he said, adding that the technology is also being developed to drastically reduce the volume and radiotoxicity of high-level radioactive waste through the process of transmutation.
"We are therefore investigating a solution to optimise geological disposal," he said.
Rubbia had the idea of an ‘energy amplifier’ - a nuclear reactor which produces electricity and burns almost all of its own nuclear waste as well as that of other reactors. A unique feature of this concept, according to its developers, is its lead-cooled core. The core does not have enough fissile material to spontaneously maintain a chain reaction, which is why Rubbia coupled it with a particle accelerator. This particle accelerator shoots protons into a target and in doing so produces neutrons which will maintain the fission reactions in the reactor. The concept is known as an Accelerator Driven System (ADS).
"The research into ADS was given a strong boost last year when the government decided to build the innovative research infrastructure Myrrha," said SCK-CEN Director General Eric van Walle. "Myrhha is the world’s first prototype of a high-power ADS research reactor. We are in fact realising, on a semi-industrial scale, the theories to which Rubbia has made a great contribution."
Speaking at the same event, Rubbia said: "It is our duty as scientists to find solutions to today's global challenges. We will not find solutions by repeating the past, but by pushing the frontiers of knowledge and, in doing so, making new discoveries." The Myrhha project will fuel the world's approach to treating nuclear waste and pave the way for the development of sustainable nuclear energy, he added.
The developers aim to commission phase 1 of the Myrhha project - Minerva - in 2027 and "to start with the development of medical radioisotopes".
Researched and written by World Nuclear News