On 12 June 2019, EPFL was officially designated as a Collaborating Centre of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the fields of open-source data and code development for nuclear applications. The IAEA is the world's central inter-governmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field. It works for the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. For its work, the IAEA won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
The IAEA endorses the EPFL for spearheading the creation of an international network of industries and research institutions that will develop an advanced, open-source simulation platform for the analysis of nuclear reactors. “This will be a unique opportunity to work on a major paradigm shift in the nuclear sector towards open, collaborative, and efficient R&D,” says Carlo Fiorina, the main initiator of this activity and a researcher at EPFL’s Laboratory for Reactor Physics and System Behavior, headed by Professor Andreas Pautz.
The need for a new development strategy in the nuclear sector comes from its ever more stringent safety requirements, but also from the vibrant worldwide research activities dedicated to the development of new nuclear technologies for CO2-free energy generation, production of medical radioisotopes, incineration of existing nuclear waste, water desalination, and hydrogen production.
The EPFL Collaborating Centre’s objective will be to step beyond traditional development strategies, which are based on relatively old and often proprietary software and data. At the core of the Centre’s activities will be the promotion of R&D work fostering the concepts of open-source and shared development. This will boost R&D activities and contribute to a safe operation of nuclear plants by increasing synergies, limiting inefficiencies, promoting networking, and contributing to standardization.
In addition to leading this international effort, EPFL will produce new, open, and high-quality validation data at its CROCUS reactor. “This is an exciting chance to use our unique facility to bring about a real impact in the nuclear sector,” says Pavel Frajtag, who heads the reactor.
The open software and experimental data produced during the project will be distributed to the IAEA member states. This will empower innovation and spread IAEA’s safety culture, notably in developing countries that aim to include nuclear technologies as part of their strategic development targets for public welfare and reduced CO2 emissions.
“The designation as an IAEA Collaborating Center is a big honor and a strong recognition of EPFL’s reputation, the high nuclear safety standards in our country, and the excellence of nuclear research in Switzerland,” says Andreas Pautz. “It will put the CROCUS reactor on the map of outstanding nuclear facilities, and open pathways to global collaboration.”
During the inauguration ceremony on 12 June, the IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy Mikhail Chudakov presented Professor Andreas Mortensen, vice president of research at EPFL, with the official nomination document (photo). The ceremony was also attended by representatives of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (OFEN), which have provided strong diplomatic support to EPFL’s designation as Collaborating Center.