Issue No. 45 Summer
(July 2014)


ENS News

Word from the President

ENS Events

ENC 2014: Where Europe’s nuclear science and industry community gets together

ENC 2014: Day 2 Plenary session: the many applications of nuclear technology

TopFuel 2015 - Call for Papers

RRFM 2015 - Call for Papers

Member Societies



Spanish Nuclear Society organises technical session on long-term operation



Nuclear Summer Camp 2014

YGN Report

Marseille plays host to ENC 2014

Time for Nuclear Industry to ‘Stop Overlooking’ the Young Generation

Physics on Wheels

Corporate Members

SCK•CEN invests 3 million euros in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular diseases and brain disorders

High temperature furnace

SCK•CEN lends a hand with the new mission for young people at the Euro Space Centre

Launch of Atucha II reactor crowns a long and fruitful collaboration between Belgium and Argentina

L-3 MAPPS to Perform Full Scope Upgrade on PPL’s Susquehanna Simulator

ICOND - 3rd International Conference on Nuclear Decommissioning

ENS World News

ECVET Customised Seminar

ENS sponsored conferences

ENS Members

Links to ENS Member Societies

Links to ENS Corporate Members

Editorial staff

TopFuel 2015

Topfuel 2015
13 - 17 September 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland

RRFM 2015

RRFM 2015
19 - 23 April 2015 in
Bucharest, Romania













SCK•CEN invests 3 million euros in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular diseases and brain disorders

New animal facility reinforces research into the impact of low-dose radiation

For years the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) has been regarded as a pioneer of international research into the effects of exposure to low doses of ionising radiation. In Belgium, medical applications - in particular imaging, but also radiotherapy - are responsible for more than 95 % of the exposure to non-natural sources of radiation. Research into the effects of this focuses, amongst other things, on the most sensitive of lives - unborn babies. The foetus can be exposed to radiation either directly or indirectly in radiotherapy or radiological diagnosis. There are indications that the dose used in therapy may have consequences for the foetus, including the development of cancer or delayed development of the brain. Regarding adults, SCK-CEN also focuses on cardiovascular diseases, e.g. after breast cancer irradiation.

New animal facility

Laboratory research at the cellular and molecular level has resulted in significant scientific advances, but in order to interpret the meaning of the effects that are observed in the short term, tests in mice remain of vital importance. “This is the only way in which we can conclusively prove what the consequences are for human beings in the longer term, and focus on finding solutions to reduce or prevent this impact”, explains Hans Vanmarcke, Head of SCK-CEN’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Expert Group. “Mice are best suited for this purpose because they are 95 % genetically identical to human beings, and the embryo develops very quickly.”

State-of-the-art technology

Until recently, SCK-CEN used test mice that were made available by the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO). The latter doesn't need this infrastructure anymore and thus closed its test animal facility. SCK-CEN anticipated this problem by building an animal facility that complies with the strictest requirements with regards to animal welfare and hygiene.

The building represents an investment in excess of 3 million Euros, and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. There are access locks for animals, as well as carers and materials to protect the mice from external influences. An advanced climate control system with individual ventilation for each cage is used, and special materials allow for thorough cleaning and disinfection. Attention was also paid to the minimisation of stress. For example, day, night and sundown conditions are realistically simulated, and appropriate background music is played to the mice.

optimal hygiene

According to Sarah Baatout, Head of the Radiobiology Unit of SCK-CEN, the justification for this is twofold: “these investments in animal welfare and optimal hygiene not only benefit the mice’s quality of life, but also the quality of our scientific research.”

Strict rules

Thanks to the careful selection of only the mice that are very likely to develop the particular disorder that is being investigated, the number of animals has been significantly reduced over the years. The new animal facility and the very strict monitoring of the animal tests by an ethical commission enables the SCK-CEN researchers to work in the best possible conditions for both man and mouse. In fact, SCK-CEN endorses and enforces the new Royal Decree on animal studies in both letter and spirit - a Decree in which the strict rules for the use of laboratory animals and the welfare of the animals are of paramount importance. The basic principles adhered to can be summarised as by the three r’s;

Strict rules

  • Replacement: it must be demonstrated that the selected animal model is indispensable for the experiment and cannot be replaced by other models

  • Reduction: as few laboratory animals as possible should be used

  • Refinement: the method used must be as effective as possible to ensure that the experiment yields a maximum of information


Home l Top l Disclaimer l Copyright l Webmaster