Black and white photo of the construction site
The High Flux Reactor under construction in Petten
© EU, 1957

Some 50 years ago, nuclear energy was seen as one of the main forms of energy generations in Europe. In many European countries national authorities considered that it was critical to have the possibility to further develop nuclear knowledge in order to construct, operate and manage nuclear power plants in a secure and reliable manner. At that time, Dutch authorities decided to initiate the Reactor Centre Netherlands (RCN) and to build the High Flux Reactor (HFR), so-called material research reactor.

The dunes in Petten (North-Holland) were selected as location for this innovative project. In August 1957, the construction of the HFR started. On the 9th of November 1961, the HFR reached its first major milestone, the reactor was started for the first time and during 1962, the reactor came into full operation. This prestigious project was now a reality and would form a focus point for nuclear research in years to come.

Around the same time (25-7-1961) the legal basis to locate a European centre in Petten was signed between the Dutch Government and the European Commission within the context of the EURATOM treaty. The JRC-Petten site was established on 31st October 1962, located close to the seaside amidst the dunes of Petten on a 24 ha site.

In order to facilitate European usage of the unique reactor facility, the Dutch authorities decided to transfer the ownership of the HFR to the European Commission in 1962.

In the 60's the Institute was simply known as Euratom following the "Euratom treaty", in the 70's the name changed to the Joint Research Centre, location Petten, and in the 80's the centre received a name relevant to its specific expertise, namely The Institute for Advanced Materials. Much of the materials work at the Institute was related to energy applications and since 1st September 2001 the institute refocused its research to purely energy related work and all materials research was phased out. Consequently the Institute became known as The Institute for Energy (IE).

On 1st January 2011 the Institute for Energy was expanded to include the Ispra based Sustainable Transport Unit and on the 1st September of the same year, the name became “Institute for Energy and Transport” to better represent the Institute’s new portfolio.