Similar to those of the Polytechnical School in Karlsruhe, the fathers establishing the Kernreaktor Bau- und Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (Nuclear Reactor Construction and Operation Company), the later Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (KfK, Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center), in 1956 entered new territory: On an area near Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, north of Karlsruhe, the first research reactor made in Germany, Forschungsreaktor 2 (FR 2, Research Reactor 2), started operation in 1962.
The prototype breeder reactor KNK also was the first of its kind. The Compact Sodium-cooled Nuclear Reactor Facility was operated first with a thermal core as KNKI from 1971 to 1974 and then with a fast core as fast breeder power plant KNK II from 1977 until final shutdown in 1991. The Wiederaufarbeitungsanlage Karlsruhe (WAK, Karlsruhe Reprocessing Plant) was also built on the premises of today’s Campus North. It was shut down in 1990.
In the early 1990s, activities increasingly focused on environmental technology, energy research, and in particular on physical fundamental research, which was then reflected by the new name Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe – Technik und Umwelt (Karlsruhe Research Center – Technology and Environment) in 1995. In 2002, the subtitle “Technik und Umwelt” (Technology and Environment) was replaced by “In der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft” (in the Helmholtz Association).
Cooperation with Universität Karlsruhe started in the early days of the Research Center already: The “Wirtz Group,” the reactor construction group from Werner Heisenberg’s Max Planck Institute for Physics in Göttingen, moved to Karlsruhe with its head Karl Wirtz. He became the founding director of the Institute for Neutron Physics and Reactor Technology and was appointed ordinary professor at Universität Karlsruhe.
Peter Sperling, author of “Geschichten aus der Geschichte,” made the first 50 years of Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe come alive again. The publication in German is available online in PDF format or may be ordered by email to info∂kit.edu.