Norwegian reactors shut down

Norway goes non-nuclear after 65 years

Photo: Institute for Energy Technology / Wikimedia Commons Jeep II nuclear reactor at Kjeller.

Photo: Institute for Energy Technology / Wikimedia Commons
Jeep II nuclear reactor at Kjeller.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Norway’s two nuclear reactors, owned and operated by the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), are now being shut down in the wake of a decline in demand for their services and products, and sizable parts of their staff are being laid off.

The reactors are located at Kjeller, 14.2 miles northeast of Oslo, and at Halden on the east bank of the Oslo Fjord, 81.5 miles south of the city. Both are heavy-water-moderated reactors built and operated to conduct research. The first was built in 1951 at Kjeller, site of the first airfield in Norway, built in 1912, and after World War II the location of research institutes, including the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment and the Institute for Atomic Energy (IFA), the predecessor of IFE. The reactor was a joint effort of Dutch and Norwegian research groups and accordingly was named the Joint Establishment Experimental Pile, abbreviated JEEP. It was used for research in physics and the material sciences and for producing radiopharmaceuticals.

The larger Halden reactor was built in 1958 to conduct research on materials and on long-term fuel use and behavior, in cooperation with research organizations in 19 countries. IFE’s decision this October to shut down the two reactors might be attributed to the evolution of the nuclear and energy technologies. When the JEEP reactor went critical on June 30, 1951, it was the first built by a small country, as at the time only the big powers—the USA, the UK, France, Canada, and the Soviet Union—had successfully built and operated nuclear reactors. That vaulted Norway to a leading position in civilian nuclear research.

With time, as the technologies evolved, IFE expanded its spectrum of research into other fields that outpaced the initial focus on nuclear energy. That shift culminated in the 1990s, and in 2009 IFE opened a new Center for Environmental Energy Research at Kjeller.

Further reading: “127 permitteres på Ife: Må stenge atomreaktorene” (127 laid off at IFE: nuclear reactors shut down), Oslo, Teknisk Ukeblad, October 10, 2016, link: (in Norwegian).

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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