Hamid Aït Abderrahim has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Kaunas University in Lithuania

Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) has awarded the title of honorary doctor to Hamid Aït Abderrahim, Director of the MYRRHA project and Deputy Director-General of SCK•CEN. This honorary distinction is a recognition of this efforts since 2001 in the field of ultrasonic visualisation applied in MYRRHA. Under his impulse, work conducted by Belgian and Lithuanian researchers has given rise to major scientific and technological advances.

Hamid Aït Abderrahim (55) is a nuclear engineer and reactor physicist. A graduate from South Paris University, he chose to conduct his doctoral research at the Belgian Nuclear Resaerch Centre in 1984. He has stayed in Belgium ever since. In 1996, he set up the MYRRHA project to develop an innovative research infrastructure in close collaboration with various research centres and European universities. In 2006, he became director of one of the scientific institutes of SCK•CEN before being appointed as Deputy Director-General in 2010.

Hamid Aït Abderrahim is also a professor at the Roman Catholic University of Leuven and member of the federal council for scientific policy in Belgium. His expertise has earned him a place on the board of various scientific councils worldwide, notably in Japan with J-PARC (Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex) in France, with the Permanent Group of Reactors (GPR) of the ASN (Authority for Nuclear Safety), and at P2IO (Institute of Nuclear Physicas at Orsay). In April 2014, Hamid Aït Abderrahim was made a High Officer in the Order of the Crown by King Philip.

Research conducted in Mol under the management of Hamid Aït Abderrahim has led to the development of an innovative research infrastructure with a view to proving the transmutation of nuclear waste, that is to say the drastic reduction in the volume of nuclear waste and the reduction of the duration of its radiotoxicity. One of the special features of this research infrastructure is the utilisation of a liquid metal to cool the reactor, namely lead-bismuth. Ultrasonic visualisation provided the best solution for detecting any object through such an opaque liquid metal.

Early in the new millennium, Hamid Aït Abderrahim contacted the Barsauskas Ultrasonic Research Institute of the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU). Kaunas is the second city of Lithuania and is also the major river port of the Baltic countries. Formed in 1960, its Barsauskas Institute is renowned for its expertise in ultrasonic technology, especially sonic applications developed for Soviet submarines during the Cold War. Together, they managed to develop detectors which are resistant to very extreme temperatures, operating in the liquid lead-bismuth and withstanding strong irradiation.

Hailed by the visit of King Albert II and President Valdas Adamkus in 2006, this partnership has been a showcase for this institute all over the world. Since then, the Barsauskas Institute of the KTU has concluded several agreements with NATO and the European Commission with regard to the use of ultrasound in the fields of medical imagery and the study of steel or concrete structures.

‘“Kas skaito raso, duonos nepraso.” This national Lithuanian saying could be translated as “Those who can read and write will never be forced to beg for their food.” I’ve learnt this saying in my visits to my Lithuanian colleagues and observing their application to the work, their devotion to our joint project, and their total commitment to achieving the set goal. During the course of this decade of collaboration with our colleagues from Kaunas, we have published fifteen or so scientific publications in the field of ultrasonic visualisation which are now points of reference in the work on reactors of the fourth generation, which are found in France, India, Russia, China, or even in South Korea. But, beyond scientific advances, techniques, and forms of technology, research is, above all else, a human adventure for those who are also capable of appreciating it from this perspective,’ testifies Hamid Aït Abderrahim.