MARIA - Can you imagine a nicer name for a nuclear research reactor?

It’s not difficult to guess that it was named after Maria Skłodowska-Curie. This nuclear reactor was designed and constructed entirely by Polish engineers. In 1974 MARIA reached its first criticality. Soon it took over the duties of radioisotope production from the first nuclear research reactor in Poland, EWA, which was launched in 1958 and served the irradiation of radioisotopes until 1995. MARIA was modernized significantly in the 1980s and is continuously upgraded, keeping up with the regulatory requirements. Today MARIA belongs to the busiest research reactors worldwide and the radioisotopes produced here serve millions of patients.

Did you know that in 2010 MARIA reactor started the irradiation of uranium for production of Molybdenum-99, the parent radionuclide of Technetium-99m? Since then MARIA plays an important role in the global supply chain of medical radioisotopes.

As TNA2 facility, MARIA will produce Tb-161 for PRISMAP users; other radioisotopes of potential interest are Lu-177, Ho-166, Sm-153, I-131, Sc-47 and more.

The high flux research reactor MARIA is a water and beryllium moderated reactor of a pool type with graphite reflector and pressurized channels containing concentric six-tube assemblies of fuel elements. It has been designed to provide high degree of flexibility. The fuel channels are situated in a matrix containing beryllium blocks and enclosed by lateral reflector made of graphite blocks in aluminum cans. MARIA is equipped with vertical channels for irradiation of target materials, a rabbit system for short irradiations and six horizontal neutron beam channels.

The neutron-thermal characteristics for the research channels:

  • fast neutron flux 1.0 – 1.5 × 1014 n cm-2 s-1
  • thermal neutron flux 1.0 × 1014 n cm-2 s-1
  • heat generation 3 – 4 W g-1

Neutron irradiation services provided at the MARIA research reactor are mainly related to the radioisotope production, other research activities such as testing of fuel and structural materials for nuclear power engineering, neutron radiography, neutron activation analysis, neutron transmutation doping are also carried out. MARIA is also involved in education and training of young researchers, so it is a pity that the access to these facilities had to be stopped due to covid pandemic.

More can be found at: The MARIA research reactor | National Centre for Nuclear Research (

Defining the ISOL@MYRRHA facility

ISOL@MYRRHA is the new ISOL facility under implementation at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK CEN in Mol, within phase 1 of the project MYRRHA1 accelerator driven system (ADS). In this first phase, the facility will receive a proton beam of 100 MeV with up to 500 μA on target (200 μA for actinide targets). ISOL@MYRRHA will feature a research programme including fundamental research in subatomic physics, research with radioactive probes in condensed and soft matter, and radioisotope production for nuclear medicine.

A first Users Workshop was organized in June 22-24, with the aim to inform the various user communities and technical collaborators about the status of the MYRRHA project and implementation of its ISOL facility, but also to discuss the main scientific challenges that this facility could tackle and to brainstorm on how the facility can best answer the needs of its future user community. The workshop took place online, on the ZOOM platform, in three consecutive afternoons from 13:00 until 17:00. To maximize the participation and stimulate discussions, the registration was kept open and the link to the various sessions was communicated to the participants on the first day of the workshop. The event was a success, with more than 180 registrations.

The presentations and discussions during the plenary and parallel sessions, provided valuable feedback on potential applications to be implemented, technical suggestions, points of view on user expectations as well as user needs. This workshop gathered information as well on the operation of various experiments by the users, which is both timely and relevant for the operational concept description, which is currently drafted at ISOL@MYRRHA. In preparation for day-1 experiments, it is now the time for future users to shape the facility to their needs and expectations on the basis of their future plans.

The three major user communities gathered in parallel topical panels at the end of the second day of the workshop. The conveners of these panels presented the conclusion of the brainstorming sessions in the last day of the workshop. Fundamental interactions, Nuclear Structure, Solid state & soft matter physics as well as Medical Radioisotopes user communities expressed interest in the new opportunities at ISOL@MYRRHA. Although availability of extended beam times is appreciated by all these communities, there are differences in the needs and expectations of the different communities. ISOL@MYRRHA aims to be complementary to current ISOL facilities, therefore its scientific programme but also operational approach will be defined to ensure this complementarity.

You can find different contributions on our event page

TUM Department of Nuclear Medicine

The TUM Department of Nuclear Medicine is one of the largest Nuclear Medicine Departments in Europe. The Department has a long-standing experience in performing preclinical and clinical research in molecular imaging as well as therapeutic applications of new radiotheranostic tracers.

A specific strength of the department is the rapid translation of novel molecular imaging technologies to the clinic.

It operates radiochemistry facilities as well as preclinical and clinical imaging facilities for the testing and clinical translation of new radiopharmaceuticals. A description of these facilities and the services that the department offers to PRISMAP users can be found below.

Preclinical facilities

For housing animals treated with beta or alpha-emitting radionuclides. They are equipped with small animal imaging facilities (PET/MRI and SPECT/CT) for in vivo and in vitro characterisation of newly developed tracers.

Chemistry facilities

For radiolabelling with a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic radionuclides, including GMP facilities for clinical studies.

Clinical facilities

These are equipped with a dedicated treatment ward for radionuclide therapies of patients. Clinical trials are supported by a team of researchers within the department, that are highly experienced in the regulatory aspects of preforming clinical trials with radionuclides.

Services offered

  • Targeting agent and chelator development
  • Radiolabelling strategy and instrumentation for quality controls
  • Preclinical study
  • Chemical and radiochemical characterization
  • In vitro characterization of new radiotracers
  • In vivo characterization of new radiotracers
  • Toxicity/dosimetry studies
  • Regulatory documents
  • Radiopharmaceutical GMP manufacturing
  • Clinical trial

Radioisotope production at the Paul Scherrer Institute

The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) is Switzerland’s largest research insitute for natural and engineering sciences, conducting cutting-edge research in three main fields: matter and materials, energy and the environment and human health. PSI develops, builds and operates complex large research facilities. Every year, more than 2400 scientists from around the world come to PSI to use its unique facilities to perform experiments that are not possible anywhere else.

PSI runs a High Intensity Proton Accelerator (HIPA) amenity as part of its Large Facilities, where three accelerators are connected in series to increase proton beam energy. A Cockcroft-Walton accelerator accelerates protons at 870 keV to the Injector II separated sector cyclotron, where the protons are accelerated to 72 MeV at an intensity of ~2.5 mA to the Ring cyclotron. The Ring cyclotron accelerates the protons further to 590 MeV, which is then sent down the beam line to various experimental vaults, before the remainder of the beam is collected in a Pb beam dump, which serves as a neutron spallation source for the Swiss Neutron Source (SINQ).

Along the beam line between Injector II and the Ring cyclotron, the Radionuclide Development/production irradiation station (known as IP2) gleans ~50 μA protons from Injector II, by means of a beam splitter, into the IP2 target station. These protons irradiate various targets towards the production of exotic radionuclides intended for medical purposes.

Many radiometals currently used in nuclear medicine are for the diagnosis of disease, with the most popular means of detection being Positron Emission Tomography (PET). These positron emitters are easily produced at low proton energies using medical cyclotrons, however, development using such facilities are rare. The irradiation station at IP2 is used for ~8 months of the year and, as a result, is not considered for use in a commercial setting. The system is still put to good use, however, towards the development of novel, non-standard radiometals.

SINQ houses a ‘rabbit’ system for neutron irradiation of materials inserted into a beam tube. Two pairs of rabbit system tubes reach into the volume of the moderator vessel. The pair of tubes closest to the target (PNA) is utilized for radionuclide production and development, which includes the production of radioactive tracers towards developing chemical separation methods (thermal neutron flux: 2x1013 n cm–2s–1mA–1). Over the last decade, PNA has been predominantly used for the development and upscale of 161Tb production.

The Center for Radiopharmaceutical Sciences (CRS) is one of the few research organizations in Europe that is able to produce radiopharmaceuticals not only for research purposes but also for clinical trials. The Radionuclide Development group is a joint group between CRS and the Laboratory of Radiochemistry (LRC). The research focus of the group is on the production and chemical separation of novel radionuclides for innovative radiopharmaceuticals from targetry to preclinical applications. Radionuclide Development collaborates closely with other CRS research groups specializing in preclinical studies using novel radionuclides.

PSI is a partner of the PRISMAP consortium and avails its facilities for projects involving radionuclides such as 44/43Sc, 44Sc, 64Cu and 161Tb. PSI is also a Work Package leader in the development of novel radiolanthanides towards potential medical/preclinical research.

Recently, a large-facility grant proposal was submitted to the ETH Rat and Swiss National Science Foundation (entitled IMPACT -Isotope and Muon Production using Advanced Cyclotron and Target technologies; see The concept involves the installation of a spallation and mass separation facility (ISOL) to allow production of high activities of radionuclides that are currently difficult to obtain (TATTOOS –TArgeted Tumour Therapy and Other Oncological Solutions). Should this proposal be granted, PSI will be preparing towards its construction and preparation, with the facility expected to be operational in mid-2028. It is aimed to produce desired alpha emitters towards radiopharmaceutical application and Targeted Alpha Therapy (149Tb initially, to be followed by 225Ra/225Ac).

A blink into the future: The SPES facility

The selective production of exotic species (SPES) facility is now under construction in Italy at the Legnaro National Laboratories of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (LNL-INFN). The SPES facility will allow the production of Radioactive Isotopes for both Nuclear Physics Research and Nuclear Medicine. In the context of Medical Applications, two important projects have been developed taking as a common basis the SPES 70 MeV cyclotron; these projects are ISOLPHARM and LARAMED, and a brief description is proposed below.

The ISOLPHARM project aims at the production of a wide set of high purity radionuclides for medical use, either for diagnosis or for therapy, according to the Isotope Separation On-Line (ISOL) technique, an accelerator-based method currently being implemented at LNL-INFN. The ISOLPHARM project will, indeed, exploit the SPES Radioactive Ion Beams (RIBs) to produce high quality radioisotopes for radiopharmaceutical applications. The ISOLPHARM project will have the capability of producing a wide set of high purity (carrier-free) radionuclides for the research in the radiopharmaceutical field. Radionuclides of such a purity are highly required for the radiolabeling of ligands for therapy and diagnosis and the discovery of new radiopharmaceuticals. More information can be found at

The LAboratory of RADionuclides for MEDicine (LARAMED) project is one of the so-called “Progetti Premiali” (Awarded Projects) funded by the Italian Government through the Ministry of University and Research (MUR). The aim of LARAMED is the direct production, in good amount, of batches of different, medical-grade, radionuclides and radiopharmaceuticals, by using the proton beam provided by the SPES cyclotron useful for preclinical-clinical applications. Currently the LARAMED facility is under construction in the SPES building at LNL-INFN and it includes two bunkers devoted to the irradiation runs at low and high beam intensity (for nuclear cross section measurements and radionuclides production respectively) and dedicated laboratories aimed at target manufacturing and processing after irradiation (e.g. radiochemistry, γ-spectrometry, quality controls and the labelling of radiopharmaceuticals). LARAMED is also a “box” of scientific projects, funded by the INFN (CSN) and other Institutions, focused on specific radionuclides (99Mo/99mTc, 67Cu, 47Sc, 52/51Mn, 149,152,155,161Tb) and technology aspects (radiochemistry, targetry, etc.). Additional information can be found at

Both ISOLPHARM and LARAMED will surely enrich the offer of different radioisotopes in the context of PRISMAP. The ISOLPHARM and LARAMED facilities are under construction and the commissioning phase will gradually start within the end of 2022 and will continue in 2023.

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