Danish university to create new nuclear research centre

18 January 2024

The Technical University of Denmark is establishing a new interdisciplinary centre that will consolidate and strengthen research in nuclear power technologies.

Bent Lauritzen, who will head the DTU Nuclear Energy Technology (Image: Magnus Møller - DTU)

Although research into nuclear power has been limited in Denmark over the past 40 years, The Technical University of Denmark (Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, DTU) has maintained several research environments that work with nuclear physics and nuclear technologies, thus maintaining professional expertise in the field.

Under the leadership of Bent Lauritzen, a senior researcher at DTU Physics, the new centre - to be named DTU Nuclear Energy Technology - will strengthen the collaboration between relevant research environments, currently located at the departments 0f DTU Physics, DTU Energy, DTU Chemistry and DTU Construct.

DTU Nuclear Energy Technology will ensure that Denmark continues to have strong competencies in the field and cooperate with Danish and international companies working to develop new reactor types, the university said.

The purpose of the new centre will be to: attract and support academic talent to strengthen research in nuclear energy technologies; expand capacities for teaching and supervision of students, including PhD students; create experimental facilities for such areas as characterisation of materials and simulation of new reactor technologies; and strengthen collaboration with Danish and international companies.

"The climate crisis has reached an extent that makes it crucial that we research all technologies that may be relevant in phasing out fossil energy sources," said DTU President Anders Bjarklev. "Regardless of whether nuclear power has a future in Denmark, it is important for DTU to have research in the field because we have an obligation to contribute research-based knowledge to society and our students. Our ambition with the creation of the new centre is to strengthen the part of the research that is specifically aimed at nuclear energy technologies."

DTU noted that the development of nuclear technologies has "advanced significantly", especially over the last 15 years or so. "In addition to the establishment of new, so-called Generation IV power plants as a further development of large, traditional nuclear power plants, work is being done to develop small, modular reactors," it said. "These differ from traditional plants both in terms of size, performance, and structure. A number of universities and companies worldwide - including two Danish startups - are working on developing and commercialising these small modular reactors."

"The technological breakthroughs that are happening in nuclear power these years are hugely interesting in terms of research," Lauritzen said. "New reactor technologies may well turn out to be able to contribute significantly to the world's energy supply, and this is what our research must help clarify. It is crucial that we, as a technical university, are ready to seize new technological opportunities when they arise."

Denmark had three nuclear research reactors, which started up between 1957 and 1960, at the Risø National Laboratory north of Roskilde on the island of Zeeland. DR-1, a 2kWt homogeneous unit from 1957, stopped operating in 2001 and was fully decommissioned in 2006. A 5 MWt pool reactor (DR-2) closed in 1975, and a 10 MWt heavy water reactor (DR-3) closed in 2000. Fuel fabrication facilities for DR-2 and DR-3 were closed in 2002.

The Risø National Laboratory was incorporated into DTU and is now known as the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy. Although fission research at Risø has stopped, nuclear research (including fusion) still continues and its Hevesy Laboratory houses a cyclotron, which is used for radioactive isotope production.

In 1985, the Danish parliament passed a resolution that nuclear power plants would not be built in the country and there is currently no move to reverse this situation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News