60 years of nuclear research in Poland2015.06.11 10:41 - admin
The most outstanding nuclear scientists arrived to Royal Castle in Warsaw on June 11. President of Poland distinguished them with some highest state awards. The ceremony was one of the events that marked 60 years of nuclear research in Poland.
Institute of Nuclear Research (IBJ) was called in existence on June 4, 1955. It was possible because that time governments of USA, UK and Soviet Union declassified information on nuclear physics and made nuclear technologies available to other countries. Professor Andrzej Sołtan became the first IBJ Director.
EWA, the first Polish nuclear reactor – even if drafted already in 1954 by staff of the Warsaw-based Polish Academy of Sciences Elementary Particle Physics Division – was built in 1958 according to a Soviet design. It was used to produce radioactive isotopes and to conduct neutron research (on beams routed via reactor horizontal channels). Nuclear Waste Storage was built in Świerk close to EWA, while Nuclear Waste Repository was located in an old military fort in Różan. EWA helped IBJ Świerk to attain position of a world-recognized nuclear technology R&D centre. That time U-120 cyclotron was built in Cracow and the Cracow-based branch of IBJ was transformed into a separate Institute of Nuclear Physics (IFJ).
Having acquired know-how during development in Świerk of several zero-power nuclear reactors/critical sets (MARYLA, ANNA, AGATA), Polish scientists and engineers built in 1974 MARIA, an entirely Polish reactor. Overhauled several times since then, MARIA is at present one of the most modern research reactors operated in Europe. It is primarily used as an intense source of neutrons used both in scientific research and to manufacture radioactive isotopes/radiation sources for medicine, industry, and environment protection. Irradiation of uranium targets to produce molybdenum-99 radioisotope decaying to technetium-99m is one of the most prominent application. 99mTc is a very popular radioisotope used in nuclear medicine all over the world – more than 80% nuclear medicine patients are treated with just 99mTc. 18% of 2013 world demand was met with NCBJ supplies. MARIA has been producing also a whole bunch of other radioisotopes exported under the POLATOM brand name to 80 countries all over the world. Licence to operate the MARIA reactor has just been renewed till 2025 and there is no indication that renewal for another 20 years might be an issue.
Technology of accelerators of elementary particles has been another field of research explored in Świerk for many years. The developed accelerators include the ANDRZEJ proton accelerator and various electron accelerators. The gained experience helped to construct some radiographic devices for industry and a system for photo-activation analysis of chemical composition of copper ores (deployed in the Polkowice-based ore-enrichment plant), then a family of NEPTUN 10P medical accelerators for cancer radiotherapy.
Large computational infrastructure in Świerk started with GIER (a computer delivered in 1965 by A/S Regnecentralen, a Danish company), then CYBER, a then-state-of-the-art computer delivered by in 1974 by Control Data Corporation, an US company). NCBJ Świerk Computer Centre under accomplishment since 2009 will be one of the three largest supercomputers in the country.
IBJ greatly supported works to develop the Żarnowiec nuclear power plant (abandoned in 1990), participated in research on power reactors conducted in New Voronezh (Russia) and Kozloduj (Bulgaria), cooperated in manufacture of equipment for the Pacs (Hungary) nuclear power plant.
IBJ research profile covered high- and low-energy nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, reactor physics and technology. Centres with which IBJ scientifically collaborated include JINR Dubna (Russia), CERN (Switzerland) and numerous European Institutes. Many topics from IBJ pure research programme are still continued in NCBJ.
IBJ strong position and attitude of its employees to the Solidarity movement met with authorities reaction when the martial law was imposed in the country. By way of a political decision IBJ was split in 1982 into three separate units: Institute for Nuclear Studies (IPJ) and Institute of Atomic Energy (IEA) in Świerk, and Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology (IChTJ) in Warsaw. The two former were merged in 2011 into NCBJ.
Currently origin of three research institutes in Poland may be traced back to IBJ: NCBJ (Świerk), IChTJ (Warsaw), and IFJ (Cracow). Also National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in Świerk (legal entity separate from NCBJ) is rooted in IBJ. The institutes closely cooperate in many domestic and international projects. A recent example: an agreement with the French CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) reached on March 12, 2015 to jointly develop nuclear technologies in Europe, in particular in fields such as working out safety analyses of nuclear facilities, testing materials for currently constructed and future reactors, producing radioisotopes used by industry and medicine. The Institutes are actively supporting accomplishment of the Polish Nuclear Power Programme.
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