SCK•CEN and the Von Karman Institute sign collaboration agreement

Date: 2011-01-10

On Monday 10 January, with Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme in attendance, the Von Karman Institute (VKI) and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for experiments with techniques and components to be used as part of the MYRRHA project, an innovative research infrastructure identified as being a priority by the European Commission and implemented by SCK•CEN researchers at Mol.

The Von Karman Institute is an international non- profit association under Belgian law that was founded in 1956. World renowned, the VKI specialises in fluid dynamics. This research and teaching centre located in Rhode-Saint-Genèse provides training to 130 students every year from different countries of the Atlantic Alliance. A federal institute, this centre of excellence employs 100 people and carries out experimental and numeric studies in the areas of aeronautics and aerospace, turbomachinery and propulsion, as well as the areas of the environment and industrial processes. The VKI works under research contracts for a large number of commercial entities (such as Techspace Aero, Snecma, Umicore, ArcelorMittal, etc.) and international organisations (e.g., RTO/NATO, European Space Agency, European Commission, etc.).

The mission of VKI, in the context of its collaboration with SCK•CEN, consists in creating an experimental infrastructure for simulating and validating the run-off of coolant fluid from the MYRRHA research reactor. The VKI will also be working on developing pumps from the reactor coolant loop and will participate in creating measurement tools and an ultrasound visualization system for the internal components of the reactor. The challenge arises from the extreme conditions under which the system has to operate: in a liquid metal and subjected to elevated temperatures and levels of radiation.

Additional information:


Anne Verledens, +32 14 33 25 86

Cathy Schoels, , +32 477 680 280


Jean Muylaert,

Jean-Marie Buchlin,, +32 2 359 96 14


Tony Arts -, +32 2 359 96 05  


MYRRHA Backgrounder

MYRRHA is a multi-functional research infrastructure, the fruit of several years of research carried out at SCK•CEN. This infrastructure is unique in the world for studies on the treatment of nuclear waste, on materials and fuels for fission and on materials for fusion. Beyond the role that MYRRHA is preparing to play in research on the reduction of the half-life and quantity of the most radiotoxic waste, this infrastructure will also contribute to the continuous provision of radio-isotopes for medical use and the production of doped silicon, an essential component of electronic circuits in renewable energy applications and hybrid cars.

More information can be found on the MYRRHA website.

European recognition

In its 2010 roadmap, presented in November 2010, ESFRI (the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) selected 50 projects for implementation – research infrastructures that were either new or in need of major upgrades – to ensure that European remains at the leading edge of research over the next 10 to 20 years. Among those 50 infrastructures, seven are related to energy security and the fight against climate change, including one Belgian project, MYRRHA.


5 March: the Belgian government approves the construction of the infrastructure in Mol.

5 April: South Korea is the first country to officially show its interest in involvement in MYRRHA

6 October: with the prime ministers of Belgium and China in attendance, the SCK•CEN and the Chinese Academy of Sciences sign a collaboration agreement on the exchange of expertise in the field of nuclear research for peaceful purposes. China sees in MYRRHA a research infrastructure preparing the solution for the treatment of its nuclear waste.

25 October: with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Prime Minister Yves Leterme, in attendance, the Kazakh National Nuclear Centre, Kazatomprom and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the exchange of expertise in research on peaceful applications and sustainable development for nuclear energy and the development of MYRRHA.

15 November: the European sustainable nuclear industrial initiative (ESNII) resulting from the Strategic European Commission plan (SET plan) in favour of carbon-free energy technologies announces that it has selected three projects to support, one of them being MYRRHA.

29 November: MYRRHA is among the 50 priority projects identified by ESFRI. MYRRHA has a budget of 960 million EUR, 40% of which will be financed by the Belgian Federal State. The infrastructure will become operational in 2023.

SCK•CEN Backgrounder

SCK•CEN, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, was created in 1952 by representatives of the universities, industries and public authorities to facilitate access to the university and corporate environments for the development of nuclear sciences and the introduction of their applications in our country. SCK•CEN is a Public Utility Foundation (FUP) under private law, under the authority of the Federal Belgian Minister responsible for energy (Paul Magnette). The Centre’s statutory mission gives priority to matters of public interest: the safety of nuclear installations, the protection of human life and the environment against ionising radiation, the management and disposal of radioactive waste, as well as education, training in nuclear technologies and the social and transgenerational aspects of nuclear energy. SCK•CEN employs more than 650 personnel, 45% of whom have university degrees.

Von Karman Institute Backgrounder

Theodore von Karman (1881-1963) was a Hungarian-American engineer and physician who specialised in aeronautics. Upon his death, his name was given to the Institute that he founded in 1956. Von Karman participated in the origin of several crucial advances in aerodynamics, especially in the areas of characterising supersonic and hypersonic flows. The Von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics is today active both in post-graduate education and in applied research. It has three areas of activity: the Turbomachinery and Propulsion department, the Aeronautics and Aerospace department and the department of the Environment and Applied Fluid Dynamics. Financed in part by different NATO countries (in Belgium by the SPF Science Policy), the VKI carries out experimental and numeric studies for Belgian and foreign industry, as well as for national and international organisations. Some of the installations at VKI are unique in Belgium and in the world.

  • The Plasmatron is a plasma wind tunnel that makes it possible to simulate the conditions of pressure and thermal flux along a trajectory similar to the re-entry of a space vehicle into a planetary atmosphere, such as Earth, Mars or Titan.
  • The Longshot is a free-piston wind tunnel for hypersonic testing up to 15 times the speed of sound (approx. 7 km per second). That installation also makes it possible to study the re-entry of space vehicles into the atmosphere.
  • The CT3 is a turbine test rig for aerothermal analysis of reactive aviation engine components. This installation, which is unique in the world, makes it possible to test the performance of gas turbine blades in correctly simulated conditions.
  • The biggest low-pressure wind tunnel in Belgium is used for environmental and microclimatological studies. This wind tunnel makes it possible to study the effects of wind on urban areas, suspension bridges, architectural structures, etc. The installation has been used to define the ideal aerodynamic properties of certain vehicles, as well as the equipment and positioning of professional cycling racers.

Thanks to those installations, the VKI has been able to:

  • aerodynamically test the solar-powered vehicle of the Umicore Solar Team,
  • carry out all of the pre-flight measures making the design of the EXPERT space vehicle possible (inaugural flight scheduled for July 2011),
  • carry out tests on the properties of the thermal protective materials of the IXV, the prototype of the future European space shuttle,
  • carry out the series of studies on the effect of the wind on the comfort of pedestrians and the recirculation of pollutants in European neighbourhoods around the Berlaymont,
  • develop the experimental characterisation of new compressor architectures in aviation motors.