Nuclear safety: IRSN and CNRS present their joint roadmap

The CNRS and the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) have been cooperating for a long time in the field of nuclear safety, and in 2008 they created a joint laboratory, the MIST (Laboratory of Micromechanics and Integrity of Structures) intended to study the thermomechanical behavior of materials subjected to harmful atmospheres such as nuclear fuels and, more recently, in 2020, renewed their framework agreement in order to define the conditions of their collaboration. On June 2, the two organizations established a common roadmap specifying the themes and scientific questions that will structure their partnership.

A Public Establishment of an Industrial and Commercial Nature (EPIC), under the joint supervision of the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Defence, and the Ministers for Energy, Research and Health, IRSN is the national public expert in nuclear and radiological risks and contributes to public policies in terms of nuclear safety and the protection of health and the environment with regard to ionizing radiation. Its expertise and research missions cover the following areas:

  • Radiological monitoring of the environment and intervention in radiological emergencies,
  • Human radiation protection,
  • Prevention of major accidents in nuclear facilities,
  • Reactor safety,
  • Safety of factories, laboratories, transport and waste,
  • Defense nuclear expertise.

The six themes of the joint IRSN-CNRS roadmap

The development of this common roadmap, which marks the desire of IRSN and CNRS to strengthen a partnership established according to their respective strategic objectives, involved the three IRSN research units (safety, environment and health) as well as five of the ten CNRS institutes: IN2P3, INC, INSIS, INSU and INEE.

Fanny Farget, coordinator of the CNRS contribution while she was deputy scientific director at IN2P3, said:

“The work carried out illustrates the capacity of this partnership to stimulate interdisciplinarity and to widely mobilize the skills of the CNRS to solve concrete scientific questions. »

The roadmap specifies the themes and scientific questions on which the two organizations have decided to collaborate following the renewal of their framework agreement in November 2020, namely:

  • Alteration of materials of components and structures,
  • Earthquakes and soil-structure interactions,
  • Transversal in-situ research in the field of the environment,
  • New nuclear techniques for health,
  • Sensors and metrology,
  • Software platforms and simulation.

Nuclear power, an important lever for the energy transition

Although considered an important lever for operating the energy transition, nuclear power is the subject of much debate and faces major challenges. As part of their partnership, the CNRS and the IRSN have decided to step up their work on a key issue in extending the operating life of reactors: that of materials and their alteration.

The roadmap thus aims to improve the ability to predict the behavior of steels and composite materials over durations and for environmental conditions specific to nuclear installations.

Assessing the seismic risk in France

IRSN and CNRS will also continue their collaboration to assess the seismic risk in mainland France. They will address the many scientific questions raised by the Teil earthquake which hit the Montélimar region in November 2019. This magnitude 5 earthquake, historically unprecedented, had moreover been able to be characterized with the technological tools of seismology, geodesy and geology. , by scientists from the CNRS, IRSN, IRD, the universities of Montpellier and the Côte d’Azur and the company Terradue. Due to the reactivation of an old fault, it raised the problem of the seismic resistance of nuclear power plants.

They will also work to strengthen the dialogue between geosciences and engineering sciences with a view to improving the consideration of interactions between soils and structures in vulnerability studies.

Evaluate the effects of radioactivity and acquire new data

On the other hand, the CNRS and the IRSN also plan to collaborate in the field of environmental sciences to assess the effects of radioactivity on ecosystems and socio-ecosystems and will support the development of new nuclear technologies in the medical domain.

In addition to these areas of collaboration, there are two others, of a more cross-functional nature.

  • Sensors, measurements and their processing.

The CNRS and the IRSN want to take advantage of technological advances and the contributions of AI to progress in all the research fields in which they collaborate, thus gaining access to new ways of observing, measuring, acquiring data and derive information from it.

  • The second concerns scientific modeling codes and platforms.

In this field, the IRSN and the CNRS will work to reproduce the phenomena and situations characteristic of the operation of nuclear installations, by improving multiphysical couplings and relying on advanced numerical methods.

Didier Gay, Deputy Director of Strategy, Delegate for Scientific Affairs, IRSN, says:

“On all of these themes, the CNRS and IRSN want their partnership to lead to effective collaboration and productive dialogue between their research teams. »

IRSN and CNRS have also chosen to place their partnership under the sign of environmental and climate responsibility.

Antoine Petit, CEO at CNRS, concludes:

“I am delighted with this structuring collaboration for the CNRS and the IRSN, which will mobilize through this merger their expertise on essential societal issues. Mobilizing the full potential of science to control nuclear and radiological risks and contribute to meeting energy and health challenges, such is the ambition of the roadmap that the CNRS and IRSN have just established. »

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Nuclear safety: IRSN and CNRS present their joint roadmap

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