State aid for Pallas reactor cleared

18 July 2013

An €80 million ($105 million) state loan for the construction of a replacement for the High Flux Reactor (HFR) in the Netherlands meets EU rules, the European Commission has concluded. The Pallas reactor will take over HFR's role as a major supplier of the world's medical radioisotopes.

The Dutch government gave its approval in January 2012 for the construction of a replacement for the ageing HFR at Petten. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation said that the government and the province of Noord-Holland would each provide €40 million ($52 million) for the first phase (design, procurement and licensing procedure) of the Pallas reactor.

The European Commission has now approved the aid, saying that it will "contribute to the security of supply of medical radioisotopes for the benefit of European patients and to other objectives of common interest without unduly distorting competition in the internal market."

The commission also noted that the proposed loan "has an incentive effect as it increases the likelihood of the entry of private investors as from Phase 2 (construction) of the Pallas project." It said that the aid is "proportional" as it only represents a small part of the total amount of financing required for the construction of the new reactor. This will be repaid after the project is later taken over by private investors.

The Pallas reactor is likely to be of the "tank-in-pool" type, with a thermal power of around 55 MW. The initial phase of the project - to develop a licensable design - is expected to be completed by 2017. The second phase, construction, is scheduled to be finished by 2023.

Since it started in September 1960, the 45 MW HFR has been largely shifted from nuclear materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor - operated by the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) on behalf of the European Union's Joint Research Centre (JRC) - has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's supply of medical radioactive sources.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News