My watch list  

Institute for Transuranium Elements

The Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) is a European Commission nuclear research institute in Karlsruhe, Germany. The ITU is one of the seven institutes of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), a Directorate-General of the European Commission (EC). The ITU has about 300 staff. Its specialists have access to an extensive range of advanced facilities, many unavailable elsewhere in Europe.


Mission statement (copied from the JRC web site)

The mission of ITU is to protect the European citizen against risks associated with the handling and storage of highly radioactive elements. ITU's prime objectives are to serve as a reference centre for basic actinide research, to contribute to an effective safety and safeguards system for the nuclear fuel cycle, and to study technological and medical applications of transuranium elements.

Legal status

Legally while it is within the borders of Germany it is on EU land, so in common with an embassy it is an island of foreign land in a 'sea' formed by the land of the host country. It has been commented that a duty free shop could be opened inside the compound, but it is unlikely that any serious plan to do exists.


Normally entry for visitors to the ITU is by prior invitation only for security reasons, a person wishing to enter the site as a visitor will be required to hand over their passport, before passing through a combined metal radiation detector. The details of the devices used to test visitors for radioactive and nuclear materials are not public knowledge (for security reasons). Also on entry visitors are subject to a search by a security officer. All bags are examined using an x-ray machine similar to that used in an airport.


The work of the ITU can be divided into a series of smaller activities


A cancer treatment involving the production of antibodies bearing alpha emitting radioisotopes which bind to cancer cells.[1] The idea is to create a magic bullet which will seek and destroy cancer where ever it is hidden within the body.[2] This treatment has reached clinical trials.

Bismuth-213 is one of the isotopes which has been used: This is made by the alpha decay of Ac-225. The production of short-lived isotopes from the decay of longer lived isotopes is very useful. This is similar to the generation of technetium-99m by a technetium cow. The actinium-225 is made by the irradiation of radium-226 with a cyclotron.

Basic actinide research

Work has included the superconductivity and magnetic properties of actinides (such as plutonium and americium)

Griveau, J.C.; Rebizant, J.; Lander, G.H.; Kotliar, G. Superconductivity in Americium Metal as a Function of Pressure: Probing the Mott Transition. Physical Review Letter, 2005, 94, 0972002.

Safety of nuclear fuel

The ITU is involved in a range of different areas of research within this topic.[3]


While we try and avoid out own, our work includes the study of fuel behaviour during 'out of control nuclear-reactor' conditions.

In the 2004 annual report from the ITU some results of the PIE on PHEBUS (FPT2) fuel are reported in section 3.6. [4][5] PHEBUS is a series of experiments where fuel was overheated and damaged under very strictly controlled conditions, in order to obtain data on what would happen in a serious nuclear power reactor accident.

Waste forms

The long term performance of waste and the systems designed to isolate it from man and his environment are studied here. For instance the corrosion of uranium dioxide is studied at the ITU.

Spent fuel characterisation

Much of this is PIE (Post Irradation Examination) see the nuclear fuel page for further details.

Partitioning and transmutation

Partitioning is the separation of nuclear wastes into different elements,[6] see nuclear reprocessing for more details. The ITU is involved in both aqueous and pyro separation methods. They have published papers on the DIAMEX process.

Serrano, D.; Christiansen, B.; Glatz, J.P.; Malmbeck, R.; Modolo, G. Towards a DIAMEX Process Using High Active Concentrate. Production of Genuine Solutions. Radiochimica Acta, 2005, 93, 357-361

Serrano, D.; Baron, P.; Christiansen, B.; Malmbeck, R.; Sorel, C.; Glatz, J.P. Recovery of Minor Actinides from HLLW Using the DIAMEX Process. Radiochimica Acta, 2005, 93, 351-355

See nuclear transmutation for details.

Measurement of Radioactivity in the environment

The ITU is funded by the European Union, and theoretically has no pronuclear or antinuclear policy (though trying to find an 'anti-nuclear' viewpoint amongst a building full of nuclear scientists is not easy). It is there to serve the interests of the whole of the EU. It is well equipped and is considered to be both trustworthy and competent by both the nuclear industry and the environmentalists (such as greenpeace). The ITU are able to examine environmental samples in order to decide if dangerous levels of radioactive contamination are present. For instance hot particles found on a beach in Scotland near Dounreay were examined at the ITU.

Much of this work is aimed at the measurement of very low levels of radioactivity; the ITU's analytical service uses ICP-MS to measure most radioactive isotopes with greater senstivity than those possible with direct radiometric measurements.[7]

Nuclear safeguards

The ITU has a service which assists police and other law enforcement organisiations by examining any seized radioactive or nuclear material. Materials are analysed to discover what they are, where they come from, and what possible use they might have been.

Other JRC sites

  • Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM)
  • Institute for the Protection and the Security of the Citizen (IPSC)
  • Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES)
  • Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP)
  • Institute for Energy (IE)
  • Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Institute_for_Transuranium_Elements". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE