For further information and registration
please contact:

Berta Duane
Joint Research Centre
Internal and External Communication Unit
21020 Ispra (VA), Italia
Phone: +39 0332 789743
Fax: +39 0332 785409

Information for the Media

50 years at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Ispra Site

From Ispra-1 to VELA-7

Fifty years ago the experimental reactor Ispra-1 was inaugurated at Ispra and in March 2009 the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik opened a new facility which is unique in Europe for testing fuel consumption and emissions of trucks and buses.

The Open Day 2009 offers you an ideal opportunity to see how the JRC Ispra site has evolved over these 50 years and how the research has diversified from purely nuclear security research to a broad range of environmental, consumer protection and security topics.

Media Programme Highlights at the Auditorium
(building 58C – bus stop Press Point – Auditorium)

10:30    Press Point
Interviewing possibilities with JRC Director General Roland Schenkel and Institute Directors.
Coffee and refreshments will be served.

11:00    Conference: Nuclear Energy … the big questions:
Is it safe? Is it environmentally friendly? Is it competitive?
Giovanni de Santi, Director Institute for Energy
The presentation will address some of the most commonly held perceptions and misperceptions about nuclear energy. It will also give an up-to-date overview of who is using nuclear energy and where.

14:00    Award ceremony for the winners of the School Competition 'Science and Creativity in the classroom'  with Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research

A press meeting point at the New Auditorium will be open all day to welcome press participants, provide information material and facilitate interview requests.

News release

Half a century of European research at Lake Maggiore
JRC Open Day 2009 – Saturday, 16 May 2009 – Ispra (Italy)

In 1959 the first experimental nuclear reactor in Italy was inaugurated at Ispra. 50 years later, the research at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre Ispra site covers a broad range of environmental, consumer protection and security related topics. At the JRC Open Day you can discover how the site has evolved over these 50 years and meet the scientists from all over Europe who handle test tubes, analyse satellite images to predict the next flood, drive trucks on a roller bench to measure CO2 emissions – in short, who support European policies to make Europe a better, safer and more competitive place.

Laboratories which are unique in Europe, practical demonstrations, outdoor activities, exhibitions and conferences will all be used to illustrate the science behind policy making and provide answers to questions such as 'Where will energy come from in the future?' 'How can we ensure the safety of the food we eat and the products we use?', 'How can we better protect ourselves from natural disasters?' 'What do we know about our environment and how do we protect it?' and much more…

A day of science exploration for everybody
Nobody will be disappointed or bored! There is enough choice for the one who is interested in energy related matters, for example, to spend all day gathering useful information and there will be more than enough activities to keep even our youngest visitors entertained. Just check out the programme on the website and you will want to come along!
The doors will be open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (last entrance at 3.30 p.m.). Visitors will receive an information pack with a map showing the different visitor routes and will be able to choose between a walking tourand a bus tour.
There will be plenty of car parking possibilities in Barza, Cadrezzate and Ispra with regular shuttle buses between all car parks and the main gate of the JRC.
Many attractions and surprises are being prepared, and of course nobody will leave on an empty stomach!

The most creative young Italian scientific talents on stage
The winners of the Italian Schools' competition entitled 'Creativity and science in the classroom' will present their work. This competition was organised by the JRC together with the Italian School Authorities under the auspices of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation.  Its aim was to bring science close to youngsters or vice-versa and it was a resounding success.  The jury had the difficult task of selecting the most creative and relevant proposals from over two hundred entries – web pages, video clips, games, songs and leaflets on climate change, food safety and renewable energy.
Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research will present the three winners with their prizes.

Registration for the Open Day is required and can be done in a few clicks at: where the full programme for the Open Day is also available.

Picture gallery

A selection of historic photos (please click on photo for high resolution version to download) is available for free. All pictures are © JRC, European Commission.



The JRC site in 1959.


1964 – Change of fuel rods.


Inaugurazione del reattore Ispra-1 (13.04.1959)



The main entrance/exit to the JRC in the early 60’s and a multilingual roadsign.


Central Workshop

Personnel in front of the Central Workshop in the 60’s, during the construction phase.



Official ceremony in Varese of the handing over of the ISPRA site from CNEN to the Community
(23 March 1961).


ESSOR construction phase

In 1962 the decision was taken to build ESSOR. The reactor is in a pressure vessel of 45m2 at a height of 45m; 12m of which is underground. The buildings surrounding the reactor are hot laboratories, workshops and standard laboratories. The reactor was built by a European consortium, comprising Groupement Atomique Alsacienne Atlantique (GAAA, France), Interatam (Germany) and Montecatini (Italy).


ELSA photovoltaic south facade

In 1996 a new south facade of the ELSA building was refitted with amorphous silicon photovoltaic panels and was, at that time, the largest facade of its type in the world.  After 11 years of operation all modules are still operating with a nominal peak power of 21 kW. (By modern standards this is relatively low, but the system has produced 153 MWh over the years and the panel efficiency has now fully stabilized.)


Main Entrance

In the late 80’s the entrance gate could no longer cope with the increased traffic. Modernisation and enlargement were necessary. The main entrance was increased from 2 to 5 lanes and a car park was built outside the JRC for visitors. Today, on average 200 visitors enter and exit the JRC each day. The car traffic is around 1200 cars per day.

The mission of the JRC is to provide customer-driven scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of EU policies. As a service of the European Commission, the JRC functions as a reference centre of science and technology for the Union. Close to the policy-making process, it serves the common interest of the Member States, while being independent of special interests, whether private or national.