Institute of Resource Ecology
The IRE conducts fundamental and applied research to protect humans and the environment from technical risks associated with production of energy and raw materials. The goal is to minimize risks originating in the nuclear fuel cycle, the production of energy in nuclear power plants and in the disposal of nuclear waste. In addition, our research addresses the improvement of safety, efficiency, and environmental compatibility of non-nuclear technical processes. The corresponding topics contribute to two programs within the Research Field "Energy" of the Helmholtz-Association.
Program: Nuclear Waste Management, Safety and Radiation Research
Nuclear Waste Management.
Preventing the transition of radionuclides such as uranium, americium, neptunium, plutonium and curium as well as technetium from the geo- to the biosphere requires knowledge of their mobility in the environment and of their (radio)ecological behavior. Understanding and modelling these processes on their intrinsically very different scales is a challenging and highly interdisciplinary task which combines geosciences, chemistry and microbiology.
The results will help to develop biochemically and radiochemically founded risk assessment schemes, remediation measures in areas affected by uranium mining, and help to assess the long term safety of final disposal sites for nuclear waste in geologic formations.
HZDR, together with other leading institutions in the field of radioactive waste disposal research in Germany, established the German association for repository research (DAEF). It intends to contribute to the final disposal of nuclear waste and to coordinate respective research in an efficient way.
Correspondingly, research activities in this Topic are grouped in the two themes:
- Long-lived Radionuclides in Disposal Sites
Characterization of the principal surface reactions and species governing the sorption of actinides and radionuclides onto biofilms, surfaces of minerals and rocks, soils and colloids, including the modelling of their speciation and migration.
- Long-lived Radionuclides in Biosystems
Investigation of biochemical interactions of radionuclides, especially actinides with bacteria, archaea, fungi and plants; research on the interactions of radionuclides with dominant microorganisms originating from potential host rocks and barrier material of nuclear waste repositories including the speciation of actinides in prokaryotic microorganisms and single-celled eukaryotic organisms.
The strategic objective of this program topic is to perform research on safety aspects of currently operating nuclear reactors and new reactor types being under development in the neighboring countries. It covers the development of methods for analyses of transients and postulated accidents, the investigation of ageing phenomena in materials and integrity of components, and the safety related aspects connected with the thermal fluid dynamics of cooling water or liquid metal flows.
The work is conducted in the following theme:
- Nuclear Reactor Safety
Development and application of reactor-physics and coupled neutron-kinetics / thermal hydraulics methods for safety analyses of nuclear reactors;
Investigation of ageing phenomena in structural materials connected with fast neutron irradiation;
Investigation of severe accidents in nuclear reactors and assessment, optimization and development of accident management procedures.
Program: Energy Efficiency, Materials and Resources
Research in this Topic is focused on the description of the environmental relevant effects based on the process technologies of resource recovery. Our research activities are concentrated on the mobility of those elements in the environment that are eventually released during processes occurring along the raw mineral and raw metalliferous resource chain. Here, we concentrate on the research theme:
- Particle-mediated Transport in Geosystems:
Quantifying particle-mediated transport and element mobility in geological media by means of radiotracer applications; enhancing process understanding for cost efficiency and risk assessment studies; establishing strong research bonds with other activities in the Topic of Resource Technologies.