Belgian research reactor becomes world's first to run on low-enriched uranium

The BR2 (Belgian Reactor 2) in Mol will run on low-enriched uranium from 2026, the SCK CEN nuclear research centre announced. This will make the BR2 the world's first research reactor with high-performance nuclear fuel on low-enriched uranium.

On Friday, high-ranking visitors from the United States visited Mol. Scientists from Washington and the US ambassador to Belgium came to see how SCK CEN intends to switch from highly enriched to low-enriched uranium.

The switch will mainly help counter the potential proliferation of highly enriched uranium - a possible component of nuclear weapons. The researchers in Mol have succeeded for the first time in getting three low-enriched test fuel elements - as opposed to their highly enriched brothers - to serve as fuel for the Belgian research reactor.

"BR2 is one of the most powerful research reactors in the world," says project coordinator Jared Wight. "The reactor thus plays a vital role in the global supply of medical radioisotopes and the testing of nuclear innovations."

The plant in Mol has been running on highly enriched uranium since 1962. This fuel - the reactor's 'fuel' - is to be replaced by a low-enriched variant in the future. SCK CEN developed an entirely new type of nuclear fuel in close cooperation with the United States.


The SCK CEN nuclear research centre in Mol. © BELGA PHOTO ROBBE VANDEGEHUCHTE

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