Institute for Transuranium Elements

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

Mission statement[edit]

The mission of ITU is to provide the scientific foundation for the protection of the European citizen against risks associated with the handling and storage of highly radioactive material. 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 radionuclides/actinides.


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 and 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 particle-emitting radioisotopes which bind to cancer cells.[1] The idea is to create a "magic bullet" which will seek and destroy cancer wherever 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 actinium-225, which in turn is made by the irradiation of radium-226 with a cyclotron.

Basic actinide research[edit]

Work has included the superconductivity and magnetic properties of actinides such as plutonium and americium.[3]

Safety of nuclear fuel[edit]

The ITU is involved in a range of different areas of research on nuclear safety.[4]


The ITU's 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.[5][6] 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[edit]

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[edit]

The ITU performs Post Irradiation Examination of spent nuclear fuel.

Partitioning and transmutation[edit]

Partitioning is the separation of nuclear wastes into different elements,[7] 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.[8][9]

See nuclear transmutation for details.

Measurement of radioactivity in the environment[edit]

The ITU is funded by the European Union, and theoretically has no "pro-" or "anti-nuclear" policy. The ITU is 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.[citation needed]

Much of this work is aimed at the measurement of very low levels of radioactivity; the ITU's analytical service uses inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to measure most radioactive isotopes with greater sensitivity than those possible with direct radiometric measurements.[10]

Nuclear security and safeguards[edit]

The ITU has a service which assists police and other law enforcement organisations 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.

Karlsruhe Nuclide Chart[edit]

The ITU manages the various versions and editions of the Karlsruhe Nuclide Chart.


  1. ^ Methods. (2009-07-13). Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  2. ^ Targeted Alpha-Radionuclide Therapy. (2009-07-13). Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  3. ^ Griveau, J.C.; Rebizant, J.; Lander, G.H.; Kotliar, G. (2005). "Superconductivity in Americium Metal as a Function of Pressure: Probing the Mott Transition". Physical Review Letters 94. Bibcode:2005PhRvL..94i7002G. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.94.097002. 
  4. ^ Nuclear Fuels. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  5. ^ "ITU04_Vorspann_end. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  6. ^ Topics. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  7. ^ Partitioning. (2009-05-15). Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  8. ^ Serrano, D.; Christiansen, B.; Glatz, J.P.; Malmbeck, R; Modolo, G. (2005). "Towards a DIAMEX Process Using High Active Concentrate. Production of Genuine Solutions". Radiochimica Acta 93 (6/2005): 357–36. doi:10.1524/ract.93.6.357.65645. 
  9. ^ Serrano, D.; Baron, P.; Christiansen, B.; Malmbeck, R.; Sorel, C.; Glatz, J.P. (2005). "Recovery of Minor Actinides from HLLW Using the DIAMEX Process". Radiochimica Acta 93 (6/2005): 351–355. doi:10.1524/ract.93.6.351.65642. 
  10. ^ Radioactivity in the Environment. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.

External links[edit]