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"Atomic Egg" turns 60

The "Atomic Egg" and the start of neutron Research in Germany

The "Atom-Ei" at Garching, around 1958

The "Atom-Ei" at Garching, around 1958 (Picture: Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Zentrum)

60 years ago, on 31 October 1957, the "Atom-Ei" (atomic egg) in Garching in the north of Munich began its operation. The Research Reactor Munich (the official name of the "ice") was the first in Germany. Its nickname is derived from the aluminium-clad dome, which the architect Gerhard Weber had arched 30 metres above the reactor.

As the first nuclear power plant in Germany, the "Atom-Ei" was not entirely uncontroversial at first, especially among the residents. But it quickly became a symbol of scientific research and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the "Atom-Ei", scientists laid the foundation for a world-leading position in neutron research. Many groundbreaking research in physics, chemistry and biology started here. Around the "egg", natural science and technology departments of the Technical University of Munich, other institutes and companies gradually settled. With around 12,000 students, the Garching research campus is one of the largest centres for science and teaching in Germany today.

The Research Reactor Munich was a swimming pool reactor with a thermal output of up to 4 MW. On 28 July 2000 at 10.30 a. m. the atomic egg was switched off because it no longer met the scientific requirements. Today it is listed as a historical monument and is Garching's emblem and landmark.

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (1911-2000), head of the chair for technical physics at the Technical University of Munich, was the initiator and first scientific director of the research reactor. Maier-Leibnitz, after whom the Research Reactor Munich II was named, which replaced the "Atom-Ei" in 2005, headed the institution until 1972. The internationally renowned scientist held several patents at the DPMA, for example his "Process for regulating the reactivity of a reactor" (DE000001020417B), which can be viewed online with the DPMA research instruments.

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Picture: Heinz Maier-Leibnitz-Zentrum

Last updated: 23/10/18 

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