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HC-KA, Hot Cell Laboratory (ActUsLab)

The Hot Cell Laboratory (HC-KA) consists of 24 shielded hot cells where highly radioactive materials (including full-length light water reactor pins) can be received, handled, examined and returned to their owners.


Publication date
2 February 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany
Opening date
Deadline model
Deadline date
6 March 2022, 23:45 (CET)


The Hot Cell Laboratory (HC-KA) consists of 24 shielded hot cells where highly radioactive materials (including full-length light water reactor pins) can be received, handled, examined and returned to their owners.

The facilities are equipped for Post Irradiation Examination (PIE) of nuclear fuels, including non-destructive and destructive techniques. Irradiated fuel pins and capsules properties are determined using profilometry, visual inspection, eddy current measurements, gamma scanning. Internal fission gas pressure and composition are measured by puncture test. Microscopy examination of fuel and cladding, and heat treatments (limited to specific configurations) can be performed. A Raman spectrometer for the determination of surface composition is also available in the hot cell.

Mechanical properties of 250-300 mm pre-pressurised fuel rod sections using three-point bending and impact device are determined to answer emerging issues pertaining to interim fuel storage and subsequent handling. Ring compression test- capabilities are also available.

Measurements of the Hydrogen content in the cladding are performed with the hot extraction technique.

A suite of chemical cells enables investigation of the back end of the fuel cycle, with focus on the long-term chemical (corrosion) stability of irradiated fuel in ground water, under both oxidising and reducing conditions (as expected in the final geological repositories). The stability of damaged fuel (“corium”) in fresh, borated and seawater is also investigated. Separate effect studies on tailor-made samples containing alpha emitters and/or simulated fission products are performed in standard gloveboxes.

A dedicated analytical sector provides ICP-MS measurements of leachates as well as full characterisation of dissolved fuel samples, including burn-up determination. Furthermore, analytical methods for the determination of key ß-emitters at trace levels by Sector Field ICP-MS coupled to automated flow injection techniques are developed for so called “difficult to measure nuclides”, and are augmented by alternative innovative initiatives based on laser spectroscopy (14C, 36Cl, etc.). Dedicated radiometric measurement tools are also available.

The Hot Cell facility serves also as a hub for the preparation of irradiated fuel samples for, among others, electron microprobe analysis, Knudsen effusion mass spectrometry, thermal diffusivity measurements.


Priority topics of HC-KA

  1. Applied research on materials and methods related to the spent fuel nuclear safety
  2. Spent fuel long term mechanistic release process of interest for geological disposal
  3. R&I activities for the characterisation of radioactive waste including new waste forms
  4. R&D on the stability and safe conditioning of damaged fuel ("corium")

Definition and conditions of access

Access to the research infrastructure is granted on the basis of Access Units. For HC-KA, the Access Unit corresponds to an 'Operating Day' made available for the experimental activities.

Physical access to the laboratories is restricted to opening hours but, in certain cases, automatic measurements can be performed when the laboratories are closed. Users can utilise the JRC equipment with the help of JRC staff. Employment of Users own equipment is not recommended in laboratories inside the controlled area, because of the strict radiation protection rules in force at JRC Karlsruhe. If the use of own equipment is necessary, this has to be indicated and duly justified in the proposal and should be coordinated already well in advance before the scheduled laboratory time. Users of the HC-KA laboratory can only participate in experiments conducted by in-house staff scientists or technicians.

Users will be requested to complete and submit safety and security-related documents to receive access to the laboratories. Approval of access is subject to the rules of the European Commission, the Joint Research Centre and the German authorities. Submission of documents should therefore start in due time to allow completion of the approval procedure well before the start of the experiment.

  • Estimated total number of Operating Day allocated to the call: 30 Operating Day*,**
  • Average number of Operating Day per Project: 10-15 Operating Day
  • Estimated costs excluding consumables and expenses:
    • Research infrastructure operated by JRC staff: 0€ / day
    • Research infrastructure operated by users: Not possible

* A total of 180 Operating Days will be allocated to the PAMEC, HC-KA and FMR laboratories.

** In addition, a total of 20 Operating Days can be granted for each User Project that consider users visiting the JRC for long-term stays.

Support of users for travel and subsistence

The JRC may provide a financial or in-kind contribution to support Users to cover their expenses for travel and subsistence (T&S) related to the User Stay Days, subject to the availability of funds, personnel and other resources to Users from User Institutions located in an EU Member State or country associated to the Euratom Research Programme.***

A User Stay Day is a day of physical presence of a User at the concerned Research Infrastructure for Access related to the User Project. A registered entry to the JRC site where the Research Infrastructure is located counts as a User Stay Day.

  • Estimated total number of User Stay Days for short- term stays eligible for T&S allocated to the call: 30
  • Estimated total number for long- term stays (months) eligible for T&S allocated to the call: 3

Long term stays are primarily for students and have a duration of at least 1 month. They are typically 3 to 9 months for Karlsruhe, and 1 to 6 months for Petten and Geel.

The JRC will cover the expenses for T&S of eligible Users according to the Rules on the contribution to travel and subsistence expenses of external users

The Lead User is invited to fill in the User travel and subsistence form and send it to JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHEatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHE[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) by the closing date of the call. For more information the Lead User may contact the JRC Research Infrastructure at JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHEatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHE[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu).

Allocation of intellectual property rights:

  • The JRC and the entitled party (person or organisation that has been granted access) become co-owners in equal shares of all raw data, treated data and documentation data developed with respect to the access.

Eligibility criteria

*** At the time of publishing this call, Ukraine is eligible and association negotiations are being conducted or association is imminent with the UK.

Selection criteria

Proposals will be evaluated in accordance to the following selection criteria:

  • Scientific implementation (50 points)
  • Collaboration and access to new Users (20 points)
  • Strategic relevance to the JRC (15 points)
  • Strategic importance for Europe (15 points)

How to apply

The proposal must be prepared using the Relevance-driven Proposal Submission Form.

During preparation of the proposal, applicants are encouraged to:

  • Read the "Framework of Access to Joint Research Centre physical Research Infrastructures" and all related documents in the Framework for Access page.
  • Contact the research infrastructure at JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHEatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-ACTUSLAB-KARLSRUHE[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) to specify the level of experience of the User(s) to perform related tests and to assess feasibility aspects related to the capacity of the research infrastructure concerning:
    • Material
    • Test parameters,
    • Specimen geometry.

Proposal should be submitted to JRC-RI-OPEN-ACCESSatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (JRC-RI-OPEN-ACCESS[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu) by the closing date of the call.

The User Selection Committee will only evaluate proposals that are complete and comply with the instructions in the proposal submission form.

Communication of the assessment of proposals:2022-04-29 00:00:00

Related Content

Selection Criteria Background Documents

The 6 Priorities of the European Commission

JRC Thematic Focus Areas