Actinides, the backbone of nuclear fission technologies for the production of energy, also find applications in many non-power strategic fields, from space exploration to medical diagnostic and treatments. However, due to the risk associated with their radio-toxicity, it is necessary to carry out reliable safety assessments of their behaviour. This, in turn, requires advancing our understanding of the basic chemical and physical properties of actinide materials to a much deeper level. With this aim, extensive research is carried out at the JRC in collaboration with a number of academic partners worldwide.
Understanding the fundamental properties of a substance is essential to predict its response to changing external conditions and its behaviour over the long-term. In the case of nuclear materials, this is a prerequisite for the development of reliable models for safety assessments. However, because of limited experimental data and the intrinsic complexity of nuclear materials, the knowledge base in this field is still insufficient.
The research on fundamental properties of actinide materials carried out at the JRC combines experiments and theory to gain a deeper insight into nuclear materials and develop novel theoretical paradigms with quantitative predictive capabilities. The programme, encompassing physics and chemistry, takes advantage of state-of-the-art instrumentation for measuring spectroscopic, magnetic, thermodynamic and transport properties of radioactive materials. Facilities for preparation and characterisation of high quality samples are also available and make the JRC one of the leading institutions in actinide research, worldwide. Fostering international collaboration with universities and research centres, and offering access to its specialised facilities, JRC serves as a European centre for the education and training of students and visiting scientists, and is pivotal to the creation of a European Research Area in the fields of physics and chemistry of actinides.