IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

Search our site :


Contact us :

En Fr

Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Back to all the news


2nd semester 2013 scientific news





The 2nd issue of Aktis, IRSN’s scientific newsletter, is available 


The second English-language issue of Aktis, the quarterly newsletter on IRSN’s research, is now available. Aktis is published only in a digital version and available in HTML or text format for e-mail, HTML for mobile phones, PDF and RSS. This issue examines the steam explosion modeling in the frame of Serena2 program led by the OCDE-NEA, and also the NEEDS challenge. The subscription for the English and French versions is complimentary. To read this issue or subscribe, go to


Research program


Launch of the ALIDS probe


The initial flight tests of the Airborne Laser Interometric Drop Sizer (ALIDS) probe took place in September 2013. The probe measures particle-size distribution of water droplets, the constituents of clouds, since the objective is to provide experimental data on how rain comes about. The probe uses an optical technique developed by IRSN at the TOSQAN facility for non-intrusive measurement of the size of water droplets produced by the spray headers that equip pressurized water reactor containment vessels. The tests performed in September demonstrated the instrumentation works properly under flight conditions, although improvements are necessary and will be made for upcoming tests. The ALIDS probe is being developed as part of Joint Research Activity 3 (JRA3: ALIDS), a project coordinated by IRSN as part of the European Facility for Airborne Research (EUFAR), which in turn is coordinated by Meteo France. Jointly funded by the European Commission's 5th, 6th and currently the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, EUFAR brings together European institutions researching airborne measurement and sharing research resources (primarily aircraft). Other JRA3:ALIDS partners include: the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, CORIA of the CNRS, SAFIRE Airborne Environment Research Service, University of Manchester, Cosine Measurement Systems and Comat.


 See pictures of ALIDS

 The ALIDS project

 The EUFAR network





IRSN PhD student honoured during ICONE 21



Marina Lasserre, PhD candidate in the Major Accidents Study and Simulation Laboratory (Lesam), received the award for best paper for the European continent,  in the student category, at the 21st International Conference on Nuclear Engineering (ICONE 21) held in Chengdu, China on July 29 - August 2, 2013. The award, discerned by a jury composed of the session chairs, is in recognition of the quality of the paper and poster presented during the conference, as well as the quality of the oral presentation. Marina Lasserre's doctoral research studies oxidation of Zircaloy-4 fuel cladding at high temperature by the nitrogen-oxygen mixtures that may be encountered during a pool uncovery or core melt accident in the event air enters the reactor vessel. The prize-winning entry examines the role of nitrogen in the loss of the protective character of the oxide layer that initially forms and the accelerated degradation of Zircaloy-4 that may result. Reaction kinetics measured using thermogravimetry and physicochemical characterisations of cladding after testing have demonstrated the important role of an autocatalytic reaction involving zirconium nitride (ZrN). Modelling of the phenomena was done by analogy with Mampel's nucleation-growth model (currently used in the physical chemistry of powder materials). The ultimate objective is to include models in the severe accident Accident Source Term Evaluation Code (ASTEC) developed by IRSN and GRS for calculating the speed at which the cladding oxidizes in air, the heat discharged by the reaction and the time.


 See the award-winning paper (PDF) 
 See the poster (PDF)
 Further information about Marina Lasserre's thesis

 Further information about LESAM



Research program


New experimental phase for the ECOBA program


Since May 2013, the ECOBA program, which studies the containment of reinforced concrete structures, has entered a new experimental phase. This programme, launched in 2011 by IRSN, ENS Cachan (Mechanics and Technology Laboratory) and SIAM (Laboratory of Engineering Sciences, Applied Mechanics and Electrical Engineering), is supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR) and has been approved by two competitiveness clusters: the Génie Civil de l'Ouest (Western Civil Engineering) and the Advancity Ville Mobilité Durable (Sustainable Mobility and City Management). The ECOBA program aims to assess containment of the double-wall vessels of pressurised water reactors (PWR) in French nuclear power plants. IRSN studies the pressure effect that may occur in the vessel during a nuclear accident, by measuring gaseous mixtures of air and vapour leakage through damaged concrete. In May, the École Centrale de Nantes (Civil Engineering and Mechanical Research Institute), in charge of the experimental part of the programme, performed a tensile test on a preliminary reinforced concrete mock-up (2.4 metres high and 4 metres wide) built for the programme. The goal was to achieve controlled cracking of the concrete and characterise the resulting deterioration by measuring the observed leaks. The results obtained by IRSN during these tests will be used to validate models that simulate as closely as possible the performance of the entire containment vessel, in particularly during emergency situations.


Research program


STEM Program: new tests performed


New tests have been carried out on the START and EPICUR test benches as part of the STEM programme dedicated to radioactive releases and mitigation thereof. The STEM project was set up by IRSN under the auspices of the OECD and aims to better understand the behaviour of fission products in nuclear facilities which are likely to be released into the environment in the event of a severe accident. For the START facility, one of the aims of the tests (test ST7) was to quantify the impact of the quantity of water vapour in the carrier gas on the quantity of gaseous ruthenium transported, and another (test ST8) was to show the potential volatilization of ruthenium deposits with a high level of water vapour in the gas stream. The results are being analysed. For the EPICUR facility, test AER4 aimed to characterise, under the effects of irradiation, the production of volatile iodine from Cesium iodide aerosols (Csl) deposited on a specimen of Epoxy resin which represents the internal coatings of PWR containments. Initial analysis of this test is showing interesting results: the higher dose rate produces faster reaction kinetics and volatilized chemical species that are different from those in previous tests.  The second test – AER5 – continued with the same objective as previous AER tests, with an initial Csl concentration 100 times weaker. Volatilization turned out to be much lower than expected, and post-test analyses are expected to confirm this result. The next test series will take place in 2014.

 Find out more about the EPICUR facility

 Find out more about L2EC





IRSN PhD student wins a best poster award at the Spectr'Atom 2013 conference



Azza Habibi, an IRSN doctoral student, received the best poster award in the student category at the Spectr’Atom 2013 conference, which took place from 25 to 28 June in Quebec. The poster showed the analysis of uranium and thorium in environmental samples by a combination of liquid chromatography and ICP-MS.  The results obtained provide us with a better understanding of the properties of thorium. Excellent performance in terms of efficiency, accuracy and reproducibility were obtained, with protocols taking less than two hours. Applying this coupling technique to other radionuclides could be useful in the event of a nuclear accident. This was the sixth Spectr’Atom conference, an event primarily dedicated to atomic spectrometry. Its aim is to promote discussion between French-speaking researchers from Europe, Africa and Canada.


 See the poster (PDF)

 See the summary

 Spectr'Atom website





ERMSAR 2013 Conference



The SARNET network coordinated by IRSN is organising the ERMSAR 2013 conference (European Review Meeting on Severe Accident Research) in Avignon. The aim of this sixth conference is to present a progress report on international R&D and the knowledge acquired on severe accidents over the past four years with the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development SARNET 2 project. The conference will also provide an opportunity to discuss the European context with the Horizon 2020 framework programme and the NUGENIA platform.


Find out more about SARNET network




Aktis, IRSN’s scientific newsletter


Aktis english no.1


The first English-language issue of Aktis, the quarterly newsletter on IRSN’s research, is now available. Aktis is published only in a digital version and available in HTML or text format for e-mail, HTML for mobile phones, PDF and RSS. This issue examines predicting iodine releases in the event of a nuclear accident and the properties of argillite for nuclear waste disposal. The subscription for the English and French versions is complimentary. To read this issue or subscribe, go to We hope you enjoy reading Aktis!





Doctoral student awarded Animma conference best poster prize



Donovan Maire, a doctoral student at IRSN’s Neutron Metrology and Dosimetry Laboratory (LMDN) was awarded the best poster prize for his work “µ-TPC: a future standard instrument for low energy neutron field characterization” presented at the 2013 Animma conference as part of his thesis work. His thesis, entitled Development of a time projection chamber using a pixelated anode for the energy and flux references of low-energy neutron fields relates to the the development of a primary standard for neutron spectrometry of neutron fields produced at energy levels between 8 keV and 1 MeV. The winning poster showed the µ-TPC detector, the measurement principle and the measurement of a neutron field at 127 keV. The results obtained provide a comprehensive overview of the performance of this detector. The Animma conference (Advancements in Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods and their Applications) was held between 23 and 27 June in Marseille, and is primarily dedicated to instrumentation and measurements in the nuclear industry.


 View the poster (PDF)
 Find out more about the AMANDE facility

 Find out more about the LMDN





Kickoff of the Open Project for European Radiation Research Area (OPERRA)


On 18 June 2013, IRSN held the OPERRA kickoff meeting. The goal of the four-year project is to set up an institution to coordinate and integrate research into radiation protection in Europe. The European Commission will assign organisation of future calls for radiation protection research projects to this institution. In addition to taking advantage of the experience of the Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative (MELODI), OPERRA will also rely on other organisations that are competent in radiation protection, including the European Radioecology Alliance (ERA), the Nuclear and radiological Emergency management and Rehabilitation strategies Information Site (NERIS) and the European Radiation Dosimetry Group (EURADOS).

IRSN, coordinator of OPERRA, and the 13 other partners* will work to identify the various European radiation protection research institutions and programmes as well as all funding mechanisms and sources available in the field. The goal of the European project is to ensure more active participation in the definition of strategic research agendas (SRAs) and road maps for universities, academic partners (e.g., learned societies such as the European Society of Radiology), new European Union Member States and competent radiation protection authorities (including HERCA) and other technological platforms (such as SNETP for nuclear safety and IDGTP for radioactive waste management) that may or may not fall within the scope of Euratom’s competences.

Lastly, in late 2013, OPERRA will launch a call for projects on risks related to low doses of ionising radiation and another in late 2014 covering all areas of radiation protection research.

* Centre d’étude de l’Energie Nucléaire (SCK-CEN, Belgique), Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS, Allemagne), Säteilyturvakeskus (STUK, Finlande), Association MELODI (France), Jihočeská Univerzita v Českých Budějovicích (JU, République Tchèque), Orszagos Frederic Joliot-Curie Sugarbiologiai es Sugaregeszsegugyi Kutato Intezet (OSSKI, Hongrie), Health Protection Agency (HPA, Royaume-Uni), Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA, France), Fundació Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental (CREAL, Espagne), Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS, Italie), Helmholtz Zentrum München Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt GmbH (HMGU, Allemagne), Università degli Studi di Pavia (UNIPV, Italie), Stockholms Universitet (SU, Suède).


 Find out more about MELODI

 Find out more about The Alliance

 Find out more about EURADOS

 Find out more about NERIS



Research programs


Launch of the ASAMPSA-E safety project


On Monday 1st July 2013, IRSN welcomed 50 participants for the launch meeting of the European ASAMPSA-E project (Advanced Safety Assessment: extended PSA). This project is coordinated by IRSN and aims to advance methods for expanding the field covered by probabilistic safety studies of nuclear power reactors in Europe by taking into account the impact of natural risks or contingencies associated with human activities, combinations of risks and their effects on one or more reactors, etc., in addition to internal failures at nuclear facilities. The European Commission is funding this research project which was created after the Fukushima accident and should facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of the risks posed by facilities, including improbable emergency situations whose consequences could be significant. The ASAMPSA-E project also includes consideration of the use of the results of these probabilistic studies (increasing defence-in-depth1 or measures for preventing and managing accidents). The results of the project, which involves 28 organisations from 18 countries, will contribute to the verification of the safety levels of European reactors, taking into account their environment and the additional systems put in place following the stress tests2 performed in each European country. ASAMPSA-E follows the ASAMPSA2 project, completed in 2011, which aimed to harmonise level 2 probabilistic safety studies in Europe3.

(1) All equipment and organisational measures (design, supervision, maintenance, automatic controls, systems or procedures) for preventing or limiting the effect of incidents or accidents in a nuclear facility.
(2) Additional safety assessments aiming to evaluate the reliability of facilities under extreme risks (flooding and earthquakes in particular), total loss of power and cooling and resources for operational management of these situations. These assessments were carried out in each country, and lessons from them were, at the request of the European Commission, subject to peer review, under the auspices of ENSREG, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group.  

(3) Studies associated with risks of radioactive releases in the event of a reactor core meltdown accident.


 Find out more : ASAMPSA2 project


Research programs


IRSN involved in 14 projects selected by the French National Research Agency



In May 2013, the winners of the “Nucléaire de demain” (Nuclear power of the future) Investment in the Future Programme call for projects were announced. The French National Research Agency (ANR) selected 14 projects involving IRSN. The aim of these projects is to further research and increase nuclear safety expertise following the Fukushima accident as well as analysing its impact on health and the environment. IRSN is coordinating 7 of these 14 projects: AMORAD (Improvement of dispersion forecast models and evaluation of the impact of radionuclides within the environment), DENOPI (Accidental dewatering of spent nuclear fuel pool), ICE (Corium-Water Interaction), MIRE (Mitigation of environmental releases), Mithygene (Improving understanding of the hydrogen risk and management in the event of severe accident), PERFROI (Loss of cooling study), and PRIODAC (Repeated stable iodine prophylaxis and innovative countermeasures in accident situations). 


IRSN is also partnering with the following projects: PRENOLIN (Soil non-linearity), SINAPS (Earthquakes and nuclear facilities: ensuring ongoing safety), AGORAS (Understanding the impacts of the Fukushima disaster from the human and organisational perspectives of nuclear safety), DISCOM (Monitoring ex-vessel progression and corium), ORIGAMIX (Detecting high activity levels and hot spots using a gamma camera), TANDEM (Tsunamis in the Atlantic and the English Channel: defining effects by modelling) and DEMETERRES (Phytoremediation techniques). These 14 projects are expected to take between 3 to 8 years depending on their size and will most likely begin at the start of 2014.





IRSN signs an agreement in support of the HAL platform


At the beginning of April 2013, IRSN signed a partnership agreement in support of open archives and the mutual HAL (Hyper Articles on Line) platform. The HAL multi-disciplinary open archive compiles published and non-published scientific articles and dissertations issued by educational and research institutions in France or abroad, as well as public and private research centres. This agreement aims to promote free access to research findings financed by public funds, in line with European recommendations that promote the development of open access to knowledge and encourage sharing, dissemination and preservation of research findings. It is also an opportunity to enhance media coverage of French research.


Currently, the HAL repository consists of 220,000 documents, including 34,000 dissertations. The agreement was signed by 25 different organisations, including research institutes, universities, professionals in the technical and scientific information industry, funding agencies, etc. IRSN supports the HAL platform for two main reasons: to contribute to and participate in this joint initiative, launched in response to the constant increase in scientific publishing costs; and, with a more specific focus on nuclear and radiological risk management, to favour communication between civil society and the public by reflecting on how free access to findings of scientific works should be organised.

 Find out more on the French Ministry for Higher Education and Scientific Research website





9 projects involving IRSN selected by the European Commission



The final results of the Euratom FP7 Fission 2013 call for bids have been published by the European Commission. Nine out of the ten projects submitted by IRSN as coordinator or participant were selected for a total budget of €30 million. Most of these projects aim to set up European research project management platforms by 2020. With regard to studies, IRSN is coordinating ASAMPSA_E (Advanced Safety Assessment: Extended PSA) which aims to list good practice for identifying and handling situations like the Fukushima accident using level 1 and 2 probabilistic safety analyses (Level 1-Level 2 PSA). It is also running the OPERRA project (Open Project for the European Radiation Research Area) which aims to bring together the European Commission’s radiation protection activities - research networks (Doremi, Star) and European platforms (Melodi, Alliance-Era, Neris, etc.) - under a single administrative body and to create a European-wide organisation that manages all radiation protection calls for projects. IRSN is highly involved in COMET (Coordination and Implementation of a Pan-European Instrument Radioecology), a project equivalent to OPERRA but in the field of radioecology and linked to the Star and Alliance networks. It is also a stakeholder in the projects of the NUGENIA-PLUS European platforms (Preparing Nugenia for Horizon 2020) and NC21-R (Nuclear Cogeneration Industrial Initiative). Finally, the European Commission selected the ESNII plus (European Sustainable Industrial Initiative Plus), WINSR/SARRAH (Widening Involvement of New member States to horizon 2020 in Nuclear Safety Research/Sustainable Approach for Regional Research active integration in Horizon 2020), strongly supported by IRSN, and EAGLE (Enhancing education, training and communication processes for informed behaviours and decision-making related to ionizing radiation risks) projects. The last two focus on the training and education of new specialists interested in the nuclear sector.


 Find out more about IRSN’s scientific collaborations





IRSN researcher awarded prize for best video by IAEA



Emmanuel Mathé, a researcher at IRSN’s Corium and Radioelement Transfer Research Laboratory (LETR), has been awarded a prize by the AIEA for his video “Post-Accident Aerosol Ageing in the Containment”, presented at the 2013 “Fast Reactors and Related Fuel Cycles” (FR13) international conference. The video shows research being carried out by IRSN on the behaviour of sodium aerosols under severe accident conditions in an SFR (Sodium Fast Reactor) reactor. The IAEA had launched a competition for the best video of a project or ideas on fast reactors via Youtube in November 2012 for the FR13 conference “Young Generation Event”. Five of the entrants – including Emmanuel Mathé – were selected and invited to take part in the conference from 4 to 7 March in Paris.


 See Emmanuel Mathé’s video
 See the FR13 conference YGE Youtube channel
 Find out more about the LETR



Research programme


IRSN takes part in kicking off the BSAF project


The Benchmark Study of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (BSAF) is an international project set up to improve scientific software used to simulate and analyze core melt accidents at nuclear power plants. The project was kicked off last November, under the auspices of the OECD. The study will compare and analyze numerical simulations of the first six days of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident by several software programs, including ASTEC, a product developed jointly by IRSN and its German counterpart, GRS. The project involves ten organizations, including IRSN, from eight countries: France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. It is supported by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and various other Japanese institutions.  The BSAF project is scheduled to end in spring 2014.

 Find out more about BSAF
 Find out more about ASTEC