This article explores the history of the MYRRHA research reactor currently under construction at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN). The article demonstrates that the construction of large instruments has obtained an essential role in the moral economy of modern nuclear laboratories. First, an analysis on the internal discussion within the research center reveals how MYRRHA’s transformation from a commercially oriented project into a transmutation machine was primarily characterized by the wish to upscale the project. Second, a focus on the European research landscape demonstrates how European collaboration led to further upscaling of the project, having to address technological requirements to fit into the European roadmaps. Third, an emphasis on the interaction between MYRRHA and the Belgian political and public sphere shows how MYRRHA was constructed in a narrative that made the project seem essential to the future of the nuclear research center. Based on archival material and background interviews with key players, this article contributes to our understanding of the development of Big Science in the post–Cold War era in western Europe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- History and Philosophy of Science