1980 -> 1989
During the 1980s, there was widespread debate across the European Economic Community on how research and technological development activities could strengthen industrial competitiveness in the Community. This led to the launch of industry related programmes and improved collaboration between industry and research.
At the same time, the multi-annual programmes adopted by the European Council called for better research results. To achieve these, the JRC was increasingly invited to work more closely with national research bodies. Nuclear safety remained heavily on the minds of the public – and high on the scientific agenda.
Together with the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA), during the eighties the Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) launched the experiment SUPERFACT. The aim of the CEA and ITU scientists was to prove the feasibility of “transmutation”, reducing the radioactivity of waste by transforming long-lived radio-isotopes into short-lived once. This involved carrying out an irradiation experiment on nuclear fuel in the Phenix fast reactor in Marcoule (France). The ITU was in charge of aspects relating to the fuel, while the CEA performed the feasibility studies and the irradiation. Together, the two organisations performed the post-irradiation examinations and interpreted the findings.
The experimental data gained through these irradiation experiments were an important element in the debate launched in France on the treatment of the end products of the fuel cycle and the possibility of transmutation. For these studies, the ITU, based in Germany, was the first non-French institute to get the “CEA Prize”, which is awarded annually and is designed to help a research team, department or institute.
Shiny and new
Replacement of the HFR pressure vessel
Surveillance programmes at Petten had revealed that the vessel in the High Flux Reactor (HFR) – used for testing nuclear fuels – was becoming brittle and needed to be replaced.
The detailed design phase for the new vessel took two years, accompanied by an assessment of future needs to determine which specialised equipment should be installed at the same time. Finally, the dismantling began in early 1984, followed by cleaning, inspection and an overhaul of the reactor and storage pools. The new reactor was fully installed in October 1984.
This included an increase in the production of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis, therapy, and pain treatment. Nowadays, hospitals could not imagine working without nuclear medicine and, every day, many thousands of patients around Europe are treated with radiopharmaceuticals from the HFR. The production of radioisotopes was outsourced to an industrial company, the operations were handed over to the Nuclear Research and consultancy Group (NRG) and the JRC uses the reactor today for research into the reduction of radioactive waste and the safety of future reactor designs.
Other important work by the HFR includes the operational safety of current reactors, also with regard to Eastern Europe. The HFR is a safe and highly reliable multipurpose reactor which will undoubtedly continue to play a key role in nuclear and nuclear-medicine research in the future.
LOBI Project - Testing facility
Enhancing reactor safety
LOBI Project - Testing facility
In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the Loop Off-Normal Behaviour Investigations (LOBI) project was launched. The project focused on assessing reactor safety analysis.
Observing the Earth from Space
In the late eighties, the JRC started the Monitoring Agriculture with Remote Sensing (MARS) project, which has developed, tested and implemented new methods and tools specific to agriculture using remote sensing.
MARS is able to provide statistics on crops and yields in any given area, contributing towards a more effective and efficient management of the Common Agricultural Policy.
JRC research collaboration has taken many forms contributing, for example, to Europe-wide nuclear fusion programmes through its materials research and working with other European organisations in carrying out remote sensing from space. Public benefits were enhanced through many projects, such as the launch of the European Inventory of Existing Chemical Substances in 1987, which made data available on over 10 000 chemical substances. Following the Chernobyl disaster, a databank was compiled to store information from all over Europe on environmental radioactivity.
Priority to the people
JRC participated in the first European Informatics Network, a far-reaching telematics network which offered users access to databases throughout European countries.