Adolf Birkhofer †

Prof. Dr. phil. Dr.-Ing. E.h. Dr.-Ing. h.c.

TUM Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Former professor of nuclear reactor dynamics and safety  

February 23, 1934 to November 09, 2019



The name Adolf Birkhofer is closely linked with a prescient concept of reactor safety – a hallmark of German nuclear technology that has garnered worldwide recognition. His commitment to the Reactor Security Commission (RSK), to which he belonged for more than three decades – many years as its director – played an integral role in this. The broad extent of his academic work is consistent with the interdisciplinary character of reactor safety. It reaches from reactor physics to the area of probabilistic safety analysis, in which he became renowned for his Deutsche Risikostudie Kernkraftwerke (German study on the risk of nuclear power plants), among other things. Adolf Birkhofer continually initiated and helped to devise international developments in this field. For example, he exerted himself for the development of German-French safety standards for new pressurised water reactors, which were implemented in the European Pressurised Water Reactor. His reputation within Germany and abroad is reflected in his many prizes and honors, honorary doctorates and appointments to international boards and panels. Since 1997, he has been advising the Nuclear Energy Safety Council of the President of the Armenian Republic, and he has been serving on the executive committee of the German Atomic Forum since 2000. The promotion of academic competence in nuclear technology and reactor safety in Germany has been a matter of particular concern to him. With the founding of ISaR in 2003 (Institute for Safety and Reliability), he created a successful organization that, together with TUM, is committed to offering a valuable education in nuclear technology and reactor safety in Germany.


Short biography

1953 – 1958 Studies in communications engineering, TH Munich, and in theoretical physics, University of Innsbruck
1958 – 1963 Work in the industry at Siemens, Halske and at the Bavarian technical inspection agency (TÜV)
1964 Doctorate, University of Innsbruck
1963 – 1971 Director of the laboratory for reactor control and site safety, TUM
1977 – 2002 Scientific/technical director of the the Association for Reactor and Plant Safety (GRS)
1975 – 2002 Professor of reactor dynamics and safety, TUM
since 2003 Director of the Institute for Safety and Reliability (ISaR), Munich


Memberships and honors

Chair of the Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSN) of the OECD (1984-1988)

Committee chair of the EU’s commission on science and technology (1984-1988)

Member (since 1986) and chairperson of the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) for the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (1986-1991)

Honorary member of the Nuclear Engineering Society (KTG) (1993)

Honorary fellow of the European Nuclear Society (ENS) (1994)

Chair of the Nuclear Energy Safety Council of the President of the Armenian Republic (since 1997)

Chair of the advisory board for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (1993-1998)

Member of the academic-technical advisory board (WTB) of the Bavarian state government (1988-2002)

Member of the academic advisory board of the Bavarian Research Foundation (1988-2002)

Chair of the German-French Association for Science and Technology (DFGWT) (since 2002)

Expert on the Commission Nationale d’Evaluation (CNE2), France (since 2012)



  • Otto Hahn Prize from the city of Frankfurt (1976)
  • Honorary doctorate from the University of Karlsruhe (1983)
  • Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (1983)
  • Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (1987)
  • Bavarian Order of Merit (1988)
  • Tommy Thompson Award for Reactor Safety (1989)
  • Aachen and Munich Prize for Technique and Applied Natural Sciences (1993)
  • Commander's Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany (1994)
  • Honorary doctorate from the Kurchatov Institute, Moscow, Russia (1998)
  • Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art (2001)
  • Commandeur de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (2007)
  • Georg C. Laurence Pioneering Award der American Nuclear Society (2013)

You can download "Explanations of honors and awards" here [PDF]