EU Science Hub

Upgraded research facilities to support nuclear safety and security in the EU and beyond

Jun 08 2016

On 8 June 2016, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and responsible for the Joint Research Centre, along with Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society took part in the ground-breaking ceremony of a new laboratory building at the JRC site in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Commissioner Navracsics said: "These new facilities, built in accordance with high nuclear safety and security standards, will enable the JRC to continue carrying out state-of-the-art nuclear research. This will benefit EU Member States in terms of nuclear safety, security and safeguards. The new laboratory will also be instrumental for maintaining EU expertise and skills in the nuclear field by providing training and open access to students and researchers.”

In view of the considerable evolution of radio-protection and security regulations over the last 50 years, the JRC in Karlsruhe is renovating and upgrading its infrastructure to improve further the safety and security of its installations and ensure that it remains a state-of-the-art facility. The construction of the nuclear laboratory building (Wing M) will start in June 2016. It will be a flexible infrastructure to meet future needs in a cost-effective manner and is indispensable for the JRC to be able to fulfil its obligations in the long term.


JRC role in nuclear research, training and education

For more than 50 years, the JRC has been providing scientific support to the European Commission in order to fulfil obligations set up by the EURATOM Treaty in the areas of nuclear research, training and education. The JRC Karlsruhe site plays a key role in the making of EU policies on nuclear waste management and the safety of nuclear installations, as well as nuclear safeguards and security. It provides the expertise and access to the necessary special handling facilities for the study of the actinide elements and radioactive waste treatment and disposal, as well as for the advancement of science in general. Another key role is in the study and production of radionuclides for medical applications, such as the treatment of cancer.

The JRC works closely with national and international bodies in the nuclear field. In addition to playing a key role in EU policy on nuclear waste management, the safety of nuclear installations and radiation protection, the JRC is also heavily involved in efforts to combat the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, and in developing and operating advanced detection tools to uncover clandestine nuclear activities. The EU programme for nuclear safeguards in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the second largest programme after the US.

The EU has also a responsibility in maintaining the necessary expertise and skills in the nuclear field. Nuclear science has been identified as a key skill-shortage area in the European Union. An important part of the JRC's work in the nuclear field, and in particular a range of activities at its Karlsruhe site, is dedicated to education, training, and the transfer of nuclear knowledge and skills to new generations of professionals and academics working in this field.

The JRC has developed a Training Centre for Nuclear Safeguards and Security as well as training programmes for nuclear fuel cycle, decommissioning and waste management, radiation effects in materials and basic science.

These activities are in line with the objectives of the New Skills Agenda, one of the top priority initiatives of the Commission, which aims at promoting skills development, including the mutual recognition of qualifications, and supports vocational training and higher education.