PRESS RELEASE - Partnership between SCK•CEN and IRE

PRESS RELEASE - Partnership between SCK•CEN and  IRE

Partnership between SCK·CEN and the IRE

 A public-public partnership in order to provide a structural solution to the residues that result from the production of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes


The partnership recently concluded between the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) and the Institut National des Radioéléments (IRE) has made it possible to find a structural solution for the management of all of the highly radioactive residues stored at the IRE’s site in Fleurus (Belgium) which have resulted from the production of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.


Known as RECUMO, this project will help to ensure the secure supply of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes within a global context that is characterised by increasing demand, while guaranteeing sustainable, long-term management of the residues.


This partnership materializes the decision of the Council of Ministers on 21 April 2017.


As a key player in the nuclear medicine sector, Belgium is one of the five major players in the world that are responsible for the production and distribution of radioactive isotopes for medical purposes. Those radioactive isotopes are essential not only for diagnostics, but also for the treatment of certain diseases, including cancer. Each year, almost 7 million patients around the world benefit from a medical examination that makes use of Molybdenum-99 produced in Belgium, this being the radioactive isotope most widely used for medical imaging purposes.


Today, more than 25% of those radioactive isotopes for medical purposes are produced in the BR2 research reactor located at SCK•CEN in Mol (Belgium) before undergoing a chemical process carried out by the IRE and ultimately being administered to patients. The residues left behind by that chemical process still contain a number of substances that can be recovered. At the present time, those residues are stored in special containers at the IRE’s site in Fleurus.


For Erich Kollegger, the CEO of the IRE: “This public-public partnership provides a structural solution for the management of all of the radioactive residues stored at the IRE’s site. It will make possible to recover those substances for other uses, whilst at the same time ensuring that Belgium retains the expertise that is necessary to ensure the safe management of this nuclear legacy. It also confirms our excellent relationship with SCK•CEN, which we have nurtured for many years now.”


Under the RECUMO project, these residues will be treated in accordance with the most stringent security and nuclear safety standards. They will be converted into low-enriched uranium and will subsequently undergo purification in Mol in order to obtain a high-quality substance that can be reused. RECUMO will also enable processing of residues generated in the future at the IRE.


Recognised as a leading centre of research, both in Belgium, as well as on an international level, SCK•CEN possesses both the expertise and the qualified staff that are required. “New cutting-edge infrastructures will be created in Belgium in order to achieve this partnership, which, as a public-public partnership, will guarantee long-term employment in our country. In this particular domain, as in many others, this partnership bears witness to the increasing synergies we are able to develop between our two organisations,” explains Eric van Walle, Director-General of SCK•CEN.


The RECUMO project embodies Belgium’s commitments in the area of nuclear non-proliferation. It will be implemented in close collaboration with the Directorate-General for Energy of the Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy, and under the supervision of Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC).




65 years of experience in nuclear science and technology

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) is one of Belgium’s largest research centres. As a Foundation of Public Utility, SCK•CEN receives a grant from the federal government covering 45% of its running costs and investments; the remaining 55% come from its own revenues. It has more than 750 employees who devote themselves every day to developing peaceful applications of nuclear energy. The Centre develops lasting technologies with a great deal of added value for society. The research activities of SCK•CEN relate to three main themes: the safety of nuclear facilities, sustainable management of radioactive waste and protecting the population and the environment against ionising radiation. Researchers of SCK•CEN are also developing MYRRHA, a flexible research infrastructure driven by a particle accelerator (ADS) which paves the way to numerous promising technologies and applications, mainly in the field of nuclear waste management and medical radioisotopes production. SCK•CEN is recognised worldwide and shares its knowledge through numerous publications and training courses in order to keep up this exceptional pool of talent.

More info: www.sckcen.be



About IRE

IRE, the Institut National des Radioéléments, is a public utility foundation whose main activity is the production of radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications in the area of nuclear medicine. It is a global leader in the production of Molybdenum-99, the “parent” isotope of metastable Technetium-99 and the most widely used in nuclear medicine for numerous examinations (heart, bones, lungs, thyroid, brain, kidneys, etc.).

IRE ELiT, founded by the Institute for Radioelements (Fleurus) in 2010 to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic applications in the area of radiopharmaceuticals, is the IRE’s innovation subsidiary.

In 2017, IRE ELiT allocated 16.2% of its turnover to R&D, a percentage which has constantly increased since the company’s creation. In 2017 and this year, in 2018, several million euros have been and will be invested to support its production capacity, which it plans to double and then quadruple.

IRE ELiT employed over 40 people at the end of 2017.

For more information, please visit: www.ire.eu




SCK•CEN - Cathy Schoels +32 477 68 02 80 - cathy.schoels@gmail.com

IRE – Bérénice Pignol +32 471 70 62 44 – Berenice.pignol@ire-elit.eu

IRE Elit - Environement and lifescience Technology