Environment, Health and Safety

General Objective

The general mission of the institute for Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) is to perform research and services to assure safety of man and environment in the context of peaceful applications of nuclear energy and ionising radiation.
SCK•CEN has the statutory assignment to perform, in priority, research related to nuclear safety, waste management, protection of man and environment, management of fissile and other strategic materials and societal implications of nuclear technologies. EHS is involved in all these research areas, both on a national and international level.

Strategic priorities

Biological effects of ionising radiation

EHS evaluates the potential risks of ionising radiation on man and its environment. Specific attention is paid to the effects of low doses of ionising radiation on man, radiosensitivity of the developing organism, to individual susceptibility, cancer and non-cancer effects of ionising radiation. We thereby provide the scientific background for occupational, accidental, medical or cosmic exposure to radiation. EHS also studies the adaptation of microorganisms to high radiation doses and other extreme conditions. We thereby provide the scientific background for occupational, accidental, medical or cosmic exposure to radiation.

Related research: Microbiology, Radiobiology, Radiation protection dosimetry and calibration

Medical applications

EHS performs research towards optimisation of medical doses in radiology, interventional radiology, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy. Special attention is given to high dose procedures and paediatrics, dose optimisation studies for medical staff as well as development of biodosimetry-biomonitoring tools for the population. We perform biological as well as dosimetric research in the domain of hadron therapy and study the effectiveness of potential radiopharmaceuticals for cancer therapy or diagnosis.

Related research: Radiobiology, Radiation protection dosimetry and calibration

Radiation protection

EHS studies the way radioactive materials spread in air, biosphere and geosphere and evaluates the impact of ionising radiation on man and environment. We research the processes and mechanisms ruling radionuclide behaviour and effects induced in non-human biota following irradiation. EHS also develops atmospheric, aquatic and terrestrial dispersion models and dose impact models. Specific attention is paid to research and services in nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness, crisis management and decision support.

Related research: Radiation protection dosimetry and calibrationBiosphere Impact Studies, Crisis Management and Decision Support, Microbiology

Long-term management of radioactive waste

Research related to the management of low-, medium- and high-level radioactive waste deals with the evaluation and demonstration of the long-term safety of disposal systems. EHS studies solutions for deep geological and surface disposal and analyses their technical feasibility and acceptance. We also provide scientific and technical staff to the Economic Interest Grouping EURIDICE between SCK•CEN and NIRAS/ONDRAF for the exploitation and further development of the HADES underground research facility and the performance of demonstration projects.
For innovative reactor systems like MYRRHA and Generation IV, the impact on long-term waste management is evaluated.
We also work on the interaction between techno-scientific and social (political, economic, cultural, ethical, …) aspects in the context of long term radioactive waste management (including issues such as participation, risk perception, long term memory preservation in the framework of geological disposal, …).

Related research: Waste & Disposal, Performance Assessments, EURIDICE, Microbiology, Nuclear Science and Technology Studies

Site clean-up and environmental restoration

Site clean-up and environmental restoration concentrates on the safe and economic decontamination and decommissioning of nuclear installations, including SCK•CEN facilities (e.g. the BR3 reactor). Our expertise is valorised in decommissioning of nuclear installations of third parties. We develop and improve chemical processes for the decontamination of installations and materials and for treatment of special nuclear wastes.

Related research: Dismantling, Decontamination and Waste

Safeguards

EHS performs research related to the management of fissile and other strategic materials. SCK•CEN supports and advises the Belgian authorities in matters of verification of nuclear materials (safeguards) and runs the Belgian “Safeguards support programme” for the IAEA. Current research includes safeguards for present/future nuclear installations, spent fuel measurement techniques and socio-political research on non-proliferation and decision-support tools for safeguards inspections.

Related research: Nuclear Science and Technology Studies

Societal aspects of nuclear technology

EHS investigates social, ethical and political aspects related to the development, use and implications of current and future nuclear technologies. Research focus is on justification, transparency and inclusiveness in policy and decision-making. Main application areas are: management of radioactive waste, nuclear risks and energy policy.

Related research: Nuclear Science and Technology Studies

Measurements and calibrations

EHS delivers research and services in the following domains: external personal dosimetry, anthropogammametry, environmental dosimetry, low-level radioactivity measurements of biological and environmental samples, in situ contamination measurements, radon measurements, calibration of nuclear and non-nuclear quantities. Measurement laboratories perform analyses for third parties and support SCK•CEN research programmes and the authorities for the surveillance of the Belgian territory and in case of emergency. Most analyses are BELAC accredited.

Related research: Low-level Radioactivity Measurements, Radiation protection dosimetry and calibration

Organisation

The institute for Environment, Health and Safety is composed of 8 expert groups: 4 expert groups that have as main objective to perform the major part of the research programmes and 4 expert groups that, besides their research tasks within their domain, also perform services and maintain infrastructure for the other expert groups, the other institutes or external clients.

Institute Manager: Vandenhove Hildegarde

Deputy Institute Managers: Vanhavere FilipNoynaert Luc