New Build

Pallas / Work On New Reactor To Begin As Construction Licence Comes Into Force

By David Dalton
12 April 2023

Final funding decision still pending from Dutch government
Work On New Reactor To Begin As Construction Licence Comes Into Force
The new the Pallas plant will replace the ageing high-flux reactor (HFR) at Petten. Courtesy Pallas.
Plans to build a new research reactor in the Netherlands have taken a significant step forward with a licence for construction officially entering into force.

On 15 February 2023, the nuclear regulator, the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), granted a licence under the Nuclear Energy Act for construction of the Pallas reactor, which will replace the ageing high-flux reactor (HFR) at Petten in the province of Noord-Holland. Pallas had submitted the application in June 2022.

The issue of the licence was followed by an objection period for appeals to be filed. That objection period has now come to an end and the licence is effective, Pallas said in a statement on Wednesday (12 April).

The licence means work on the reactor pit and foundation can begin. A further licence will be needed for rector operation.

Pallas programme director Peter Dijk the Pallas team has been working hard in recent years to submit the licence application and “we can proceed with the preparatory work for the final realisation of the Pallas reactor”.

Pallas said Ernst Kuipers, the Netherlands’ minister of health, welfare and sport. has asked it to avoid delays by continuing with project preparations. Pallas said this means preparations for the construction pit will continue pending a final funding decision for the reactor from the Dutch government.

In September 2022 the government announced it was setting aside financial reserves of €30m ($32m) for the Pallas research reactor project tin 2022 and €129m a year from 2023 – a move welcomed as “a huge boost” for nuclear medicine, knowledge and innovation.

Final Investment Decision Due Soon

The Cabinet was expected to take a final decision on the remaining investment costs in spring 2023.

Every day, 30,000 patients depend on the production of medical radioisotopes from the HFR at Petten. Pallas said this number is expected to increase because of the introduction of new treatments with medical isotopes from reactors and the growth in the number of patients with cancer and cardiovascular diseases worldwide.

NRG, which operates the HFR on behalf of its owner, the European Union’s Joint Research Centre, and will also operate the new Pallas unit, said the new reactor will mean patients with serious conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease can be helped “for many decades”.

In 2012, the Dutch government and the province of Noord-Holland decided that the HFR should be replaced to ensure the supply of medical radioisotopes and the continuation of nuclear research.

In Europe, four reactors are responsible for most medical radioisotope production: the HFR, BR2 in Belgium, LVR15 in the Czech Republic and the Maria reactor in Poland.

NRG said the supply chain is vulnerable because little spare capacity is available and ageing reactors require increasing maintenance. It said the unplanned downtime of one of the reactors is “an increasing risk”.

Construction of the new Pallas reactor is “more necessary than ever” and will contribute to strengthening the security of supply of nuclear medicine for health care, NRG said.

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