IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Research units

Research Laboratory on the Future of the Radioactive Sites Pollution (LELI)

Last update on February 2018

The Research Laboratory on the Future of the Radioactive Sites Pollution (LELI) is located in Fontenay-aux-Roses. It was set up in 2015 to develop the knowledge needed to carry out high-level independent assessments of sites and soil contaminated by radioactive substances, such as former uranium mines and surface and near-surface radioactive waste disposal facilities. 

Background and research themes​

One of the major challenges addressed by IRSN is to improve our knowledge regarding the characterization and transfer of radionuclides in the environment, and particularly their consequences for human health. The Institute is tasked with providing the scientific and technical basis on which the authorities must, in a proportionate manner, define the conditions in which nuclear facilities are operated and dismantled, together with procedures for managing contaminated land and former mines.

As a unit within IRSN's department in charge of radioactive waste and radionuclide migration in the geosphere (SEDRE), the LELI was set up to focus more specifically on issues related to managing the waste produced during nuclear facility operating and dismantling or by industries that use Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). In addition, it also studies former uranium mines and areas contaminated following a nuclear accident such as the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, or affected by chronic contamination.

In practice, the LELI works to identify and characterize the chemical, physical and biological processes that govern radionuclide transfer in the environment on various spatial scales and time scales. The approach used is based on a selection of sites that are representative of different contexts studied (spectrum of radionuclides and environmental characteristics).

The research carried out requires the development of analytical methods, some geared to isotope analysis, which can provide invaluable natural chronometers. Such developments also cover the analysis of low concentrations in environmental media. Applying geostatistical approaches to radionuclides is another area of development for the laboratory, not only to improve source characterization but also with a view to scaling.

Integrating the results of experiments into geochemical models is used to evaluate the long-term behavior of radionuclides released and the kinetics of how they migrate in the environment.

The areas of research worked on are radionuclide transfer, contaminated sites and soils, mining sites, waste and contaminated areas.

Research areas​

LELI's primary task is to define and implement experimental research programs in the field of radionuclide transfer and retention in the geosphere. More specifically, the aim of these programs is to:
  • optimize the strategies used to characterize contaminated sites and soils thanks to new tools and methods (the European TERRITORIES project, research at Chernobyl; the I-TUM exploratory research project, the ANR-PLUTON project and the ANR-AMORAD project);
  • identify and characterize the processes of radionuclide release and transfer. This includes identifying the bearing phases and defining whether or not they have the capacity to release radionuclides (URAMINES, RAMSES, RUMBA, USEDIM, RASEDIM);
  • model radionuclide transfer at different spatial and time scales, and assessing the impact of external forces: geochemical modification of the environmental, climate change (PIA-Andra Kri-Terres project), etc.;
  • identify and characterize processes likely to trap radionuclides and thus lead to the creation of secondary source terms (European TERRITORIES project);
  • analyze radionuclide speciation and how it evolves depending on environmental conditions (area for further development).

The LELI also develops analytical tools (AMORAD program), tests methods and performs measurements relative to the physical, radiological and chemical characterization of soil, rock and water. It is also in charge of management and maintenance of the equipment installed at the LUTECE facility, and is active in various metrology and intercomparison networks (CETAMA, IRSN's in-house metrology network).

Research team​

Anthony Julien (lab tests)
Gilles Alcalde (lab tests)
Olivier Diez (lab tests)

Research engineers
Mathieu LeCoz (Hydrology)
Alkis Gourgiotis (Isotopic Geochemistry)
Arnaud Mangeret (Hydrology)
Charlotte Cazala (lab Director)
Mathilde Zebracki (Geochemistry)

PhD student
Lucie Stetten (Geochemistry, 2015-2018)

Post-doctoral researchers
Josselyn Gorny (Chemistry, 2017-2019)
Pedram Masoudi (Geostatistics, 2017-2019)

Facilities and methods​

The LELI manages:
  • the LUTECE experimentation and characterization platform (Laboratoire unifié d’expérimentation et de caractérisation), used for experiments relating to radionuclide transfer in the geosphere. This platform includes a range of tools for the physical characterization of solids and chemical and radiological test equipment used on samples taken from the environment;
  • the Chernobyl experimental platform, located 2 km from the damaged reactor, used for in situ research on radionuclide migration phenomena in saturated and unsaturated media, and for developing site characterization capabilities (hydrogeological and radiological) and laboratory modeling.

Partnerships and research networks​

  • Pierre et Marie Curie IMPMC (Institute of Mineralogy)
  • Mines ParisTech, GeoScience Center
  • Chernobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and
  • Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology
  • Institute of Geological Sciences IGS-Ukraine
  • Główny Instytut Górnictwa (Polish Mining Institute)
  • CNRS Laboratory of Physical Geography
  • IRSN Metrology Network​

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Research programs

 URAMINES: Improving our knowledge of the impact of former uranium mining sites on the quality of water and sediment in the Loire drainage basin
 RAMSES: Monitoring of RAdium and thallium in the vicinity of Mining sites: coupling isotopic measurements to thin-film in situ SEnsorS
 RUMBA: Mechanisms of uranium reoxidation in lake sediments and their impact on the disposal of radiologically-contaminated sediment
 USEDIM: Uranium speciation, mobility and fate in lake sediment downstream of former mines in the Massif Central
 RASEDIM: Radium mobility at the water-sediment interface in lake environments: isotopic imbalances and barytine mineralogy
 OUTCAST: Omics approaches for understanding bacteria adaptation in radioactive soils, sediments and wastes.
 PLUTON: developing passive sensors for tetravalant species
 I-TUM: developing an isotopic tracer for mine inflows
 KRI-TERRES: combining kriging with hydrological modeling to improve soil decontamination
 TERRITORIES: improving estimations of the volume of contaminated soil following a nuclear accident using a geostatistics approach. Study on radium redistribution in a lake system.

Facilities and methods


Charlotte Cazala

92262 Fontenay-aux-Roses CEDEX

Phone: +33 (0)1 58 35 81 65


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