A key topic of the institute is the handling of nuclear risks from resource requirements through plant safety, accident sequences and consequences of accidents to proliferation risks and waste treatment. The work of the institute includes a penetration and, if necessary, expansion of scientific foundations, the analysis of concrete technical or technology-oriented projects, as well as the counseling of political and public actors. The starting point of many of the institute’s reflections is the perception of broader areas of nuclear technology as a highly ambivalent risk technology that exemplifies undesirable developments in the modern history of science and technology.
Nuclear Research Topics
One focus of activity is in the area of reactor and plant safety. Particular consideration is given to the analysis of existing or planned reactors in Europe – especially in the Austrian area. The safety of different reactor designs (especially existing pressurized and boiling water reactors of the so-called 2nd generation) is analyzed and questioned. A wide range of aspects has to be taken into account, from knowledge about causes, processes and effects of (severe) reactor accidents and incidents to techno-political boundary conditions of plant construction and approval procedures.
Added to this is the critical analysis of recent developments in the field of nuclear technology. These include fission reactors of the so-called 3rd and 4th generation as well as fusion reactor research. In more detail, the development of a dedicated partitioning and transmutation (P&T) nuclear reactor, with which proponents promise to reduce nuclear waste disposal problems, is currently under investigation.
Another focus is the investigation of the nuclear fuel cycle and the nuclear fuel spiral. For example, a broad information and data collection and its analysis allow statements to be made about future uranium availability. Access to uranium, highly enriched uranium and plutonium and, if applicable, their use in nuclear programs is at the core of the civil-military ambivalence of nuclear technology. Here, there are interfaces with nuclear proliferation issues, and there is a capacity to connect to fundamental issues of the future of nuclear energy use and nuclear disarmament.
The nuclear competence field will continue to be scientifically substantiated, in particular by sharpening the scientific competences in the field of physical models and simulation tools. These tools allow a deeper understanding of processes in the reactor core and in the cooling system. For this purpose, methods of probabilistic and deterministic safety and risk analysis are applied. Methodological focal points of the institute in the nuclear field are:
- Analysis of severe accidents with the computer programs MELCOR, ASTEC, ATHLET CD
- Thermo-hydraulic analyses with the computer programs RELAP 5, ATHLET
- Neutronics and reactor physics using Monte Carlo methods (MCNPX)
- Burn-up codes for determining the nuclide composition in nuclear installations
- Dispersion calculations, consequences of accidents and radiological effects of large releases (FLEXRISK, RODOS, MACCS 2)
- Construction and usage of databases on nuclear installations and uranium mines as well as scenario development
- Risk and Technology Assessment
The institute also holds expertise, measuring equipment and measuring experience in order to be able to react and act competently in the event of radiological hazards.