Under the microscope
Nuclear fission and radiation protection are topics which can appear daunting if the science behind them is not clearly grasped. In this section the more basic aspects of nuclear physics are briefly explained to give an overview of nuclear science and technology.
Atoms are the basic building blocks of all matter. They consist of a cloud of negatively charged particles called electrons surrounding a small, dense, positively charged nucleus.
All large power stations operate on a similar principle - they generate heat from nuclear reactions that is used to produce steam, which then turns a turbine connected to an electrical generator.
Nuclear reactor technology has been under continuous development since the first commercial exploitation of civil nuclear power in the 1950s. This technology is presented at different stages, or "generation" of nuclear reactor development, each representing a significant technical step advancement (either in terms of performance, costs, or safety) compared with the previous generation.
Radiation protection research aims at optimizing the protection of humans and the environment from exposure to all sources of ionizing radiation, in particular low and protracted doses resulting from: medical applications, industrial applications, including nuclear power generation and natural radioactivity (radiation of terrestrial origin) cosmic radiation.
The primary task in this research area is to coordinate the development of concepts and processes that can address the key outstanding issues in radioactive waste management and disposal. More specifically, the Seventh Euratom Framework Programme (Euratom FP7) supports research including concrete and practical applications, such as repository design or all aspects linked to the geological disposal of nuclear waste.