For almost 70 years we have specialised in nuclear physics and chemistry and reactor physics and technology

At the Nuclear Research Institute, since its inception, work has been carried out in high and low energy nuclear physics, nuclear chemistry, reactor physics and technology. Cooperation has been established with the most important scientific centres in the world, including the United Institute for Nuclear Research - ZIBJ (Russian: Объединённый институт ядерных исследований, ОИЯИ) in Dubna near Moscow and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research CERN (French: Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire).

A wide-ranging programme of basic research was launched, continuing to this day at the National Centre for Nuclear Research. The greatest achievement was the groundbreaking work on hyperfragments - a new type of atomic nucleus containing a strange particle (lambda hyperon) instead of one of the nucleons. The discoverers of hypernuclei, Institute staff Professors Marian Danysz and Jerzy Pniewski, were nominated for the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

On 4 June 1955, the Nuclear Research Institute was established

On 4 June 1955, the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the People's Republic of Poland, reacting to the declassification by the USA, the UK and the USSR of some of the work on nuclear physics and the provision of nuclear technology to other countries, passed a resolution establishing the Institute of Nuclear Research. Its first director was Professor Andrzej Sołtan. Two years later, after Prof. Sołtan's resignation, the post was given to Prof. Jan Paweł Nowacki.
The Institute's activities included atomic nucleus research, nuclear engineering and the use of nuclear energy for the national economy.


In 1958 the research reactor EWA started operation

As early as 1958, the first Soviet research reactor, EWA (abbreviation for experimental, water, atomic), was put into operation at Świerk. It was a light-water reactor with a thermal power of 2 MW of the WWR-S type, which was used primarily for the production of isotopes used in medicine and industry. In later years, the so-called MARYLA, ANNA and AGATA zero-power reactors were built at the Institute and used for research into reactor physics. The AGATA reactor was the prototype for the MARIA reactor. The WANDA reactor (an acronym for water, academic, scientific, didactic, application), known as UR-100, was also built at the institute.

1962 - Start of production of isotopes and medical preparations

Even during the construction of the EWA reactor, in 1957, the Isotope Distribution Department was established, which, after the start-up of EWA, was transformed into the Isotope Distribution Office and then into the Isotope Production and Distribution Centre. Already in the 1960s, the Centre produced a number of innovative products including medical preparations with radionuclides: 131I, 35S, 32P, standard and gammagraphy sources and the first technetium generators.


LECH (1961) and ANDRZEJ (1970) accelerators - important for physics research

Particle accelerators were also worked on at Świerk. On 22 December 1961, a Van den Graaff-type accelerator, LECH, used for fundamental research in nuclear physics, was put into service. The ANDRZEJ proton accelerator, named after Andrzej Sołtan who initiated its construction, was also built here. The ANDRZEJ accelerator began operation in early 1970.

The experience gained allowed the installation of equipment for radiographic testing of products and photoactivation chemical analysis in copper ore enrichment plants, and contributed to the development and production of NEPTUN 10P accelerators for radiotherapy of cancer.



The MARIA research reactor was commissioned in 1974

In 1966, the decision was taken to build the second Polish research reactor MARIA, named after Maria Skłodowska-Curie. The programme for the use of the MARIA research reactor was established back in 1964. According to the document, the reactor was to enable physical research on neutron beams, radiochemical and materials research, and research in reactor engineering and nuclear power. The reactor was also to be used for irradiating target materials for isotope production and conducting irradiations for short-lived isotope spectrometry.
On 16 June 1970, the foundation stone was ceremonially laid in the foundation slab of the main building, and on 18 December 1974, at 0.17 a.m., the criticality of the MARIA reactor was reached for the first time.

The complete history of the MARIA reactor can be accessed here.


1974 - The first supercomputer in Świerk

The growing need for numerical calculations in nuclear physics led to the launch of the Danish GIER digital machine from A/S Regnecentralen in Świerk in 1965, and a modern American CYBER computer from Control Data Corporation in 1974. The Institute also carried out work in support of the construction of the Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant, carried out research into the characteristics of power reactors at Nowy Woroneż (USSR) and Kozłoduj (Bulgaria), and cooperated in the start-up of external plant production of equipment for the Pacs NPP (Hungary).

Research on technology and apparatus, developed and built at the Institute, was carried out by, among others, the United Factory of Nuclear Equipment POLON. Cooperation with industry led to the construction and software development of computerised systems to support the operation of lignite-fuelled power units. 12 such systems were installed at the Bełchatów Power Plant.

1982 - Separation of the IBJ into three separate units

In 1982, as a result of a political decision, the IBJ was divided. The liquidation and division of the IBJ was a form of repression by the martial law authorities against rebellious scientists.

Three new entities were created: the Institute of Nuclear Problems (IPJ) and the Institute of Atomic Energy (IEA) (both based in Świerk), and the Institute of Chemistry and Nuclear Technology (in Żerań). In 1990, the Isotope Research and Development Centre was granted independent legal personality. It was subsequently reintegrated into the IEA. In 2007, the name of the Institute of Atomic Energy was changed to the POLATOM Institute of Atomic Energy.


2011 - Merger of the institutes and change of name to the National Centre for Nuclear Research

On 1 September 2011, the Institute for Nuclear Problems and the POLATOM Institute for Atomic Energy were merged and the centre was renamed the National Centre for Nuclear Research.

There are now three scientific institutes derived from the Institute for Nuclear Research:

  • The National Centre for Nuclear Research in Świerk,
  • Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology in Żerań, Warsaw,
  • Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kraków.

We also commemorate the outstanding scientists and staff who have already left us.