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Scientific news - 1st semester 2007





Christian Mun was awarded the Jean Bourgeois prize


On 14 June, Christian Mun, a former doctoral student at IRSN, was awarded the Jean Bourgeois prize by the French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN) for his thesis presented in March 2007. The award is specific to his work on "Behavior of ruthenium fission product in the reactor containment in the event of a severe accident" which is part of the international "source term" research programme led by IRSN in conjunction with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and electricity utility (EDF) on releases of radioactive products. Based on a variety of experimental results on the stability of the species RuO4(g) and the phenomenon of revoltatilisation of ruthenium oxide deposits under the action of radiolytic products, preliminary models of ruthenium releases were put forward. This modelling was subsequently applied to calculate an accident sequence involving a 900 MWe PWR nuclear reactor. The results indicated that the Ru-106 release values could be very close to the envelope reference value currently considered by IRSN during safety studies, hence the importance of continuing research efforts into the behaviour of ruthenium in the containment. After his thesis, Christian Mun joined IRSN in the Fires, Corium and Containment Department at Cadarache (Bouches-du-Rhône).

Scientific board 
Four new members

Four new members have just been officially appointed to the IRSN Scientific board, further to the administrative order of the 25 April 2007 published in the Official Journal of the French Republic on 5 May 2007.

  • Pierre Laroche, Chief Medical Officer of the French Armed Forces and Head of the Medical Division of the Armed Forces' Radiation Protection Department, replaces Martin Schlumberger, on the proposal of the Minister of Defence.
  • Dietrich Averbeck, Radiation Protection Manager in the Curie Institute Research Division (CNRS) replaces Jean-Marc Cosset ,on the proposal of the Minister of Health.
  • Pierre Catilina, a doctor specialising in occupational pathology and member of the French committee on occupational diseases, takes over from René Amalberti, on the proposal of the Minister of Labour.
  • Jean-Claude André, Scientific Director of the INRS, the French national research and safety institute, replaces Lars-Erik Holm, also on the proposal of the Minister of Labour.




29th Congress of the European Safeguards Research and Development Association



The IRSN has been entrusted with the organization of the 29th Congress of the European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA) to be held from May 22 to 24, 2007, in the conference centre (Centre de Congrès) of Aix-en-Provence.

ESARDA is an association founded in 1967 and comprising various European Union organizations. Its purpose is to harmonize cooperation in the field of nuclear material safeguarding and control as per the EURATOM treaty signed in Rome on March 25, 1957.

The conference will include over 160 lectures and approximately 20 visual presentations. In addition, various equipment intended for the inspection of nuclear facilities and materials will be exhibited in the conference centre.

 for more information, visit the ESARDA website



Radioecology - Radioactif waste

Publication of IUR recommendations to improve the long-term prediction of the behaviour of waste-contained radionuclides



Produced by a task group of the International Union of Radioecology (IUR) including several IRSN researchers and experts, this report provides a state of the art of the current radioecological knowledge concerning a series of radionuclides relevant to radioactive waste management: 14C, 36Cl, 99Tc, 237Np and 238U. Their behaviour in aquatic and terrestrial environments are described as exhaustively as possible along with the processes involved and their modelling approaches. The disparity in the knowledge about these radionuclides leads yet to a contrasted state of the art with identification of scientific gaps. A large consultation within the international scientific community, regularly called on in four successive dedicated workshops, finally yielded the proposal of a series of recommendations to direct and coordinate efforts of further research and development in this area.






EXTREMA project selected by the French National Research Agency (ANR)



In late January 2007, within the scope of its request for project proposals regarding environmental and climatic vulnerability, the French National Research Agency (ANR) selected the IRSN's EXTREMA project. This project includes the participation of the European Centre for Research and Education on Environmental Geosciences (CEREGE), the French Centre for Research and Training on Marine Environments (CEFREM), the French Institute for Research on Sea Exploitation (IFREMER) and the Aerology Laboratory of the Midi-Pyrenees Coastal Oceanography Observatory. It will be funded 100% by the ANR. Moreover, in October 2006, it was chosen for support by two competitiveness cluster programmes: the French territories risk and vulnerability management cluster, and the PACA Sea cluster.


The goal of the EXTREMA project is to quantify and model contaminant transport (metals and radioelements) during extreme meteorological events (namely storms and high waters). It falls within the context of global climate changes and the apparent amplification of extreme meteo-climatic events. The various compartments of the geosphere (atmospheric, continental and marine environments) will be studied in the specific case of the coastal system of the Gulf of Lions: Rhone and Tet rivers and their estuaries up to the deep-sea canyons bordering the continental shelf.

The EXTREMA project was officially launched during a partnership meeting on February 21st 2007 and will run for four years.




Scientific cooperation

Framework agreement signed with the University of Rouen



The IRSN signed a framework agreement for scientific cooperation with the University of Rouen on the 1st December 2006. Cooperation projects are already planned with three of the university's laboratories. The Continental and Coastal Morphodynamics Laboratory (M2C) will be involved in studying sedimentology in the English Channel, in particular with a thesis on that subject. Work with the Laboratory of Microbiology in Cold Environments (UPRES EA 2123) will focus on bacteriology and diagenesis, particularly in marine and estuary sediments. Research activities with the Interprofessional Research Centre for Aerothermochemistry (UMR 6614 CORIA) will be concerned with measuring the impact of aerosol pollution on built-up areas and ecosystems, developing optical diagnostics used in fluid mechanics and characterising and performing measurement diagnostics on the soot emitted during a fire.





Closing meeting for ERICA



The closing meeting for the ERICA project (Environmental Risk from Ionising Contaminants: Assessment and Management), which is part of the 6th Euratom-Framework Research & Development Programme, will be held on 14-15 February 2007 at the UICP in Paris. This final meeting organised by IRSN will review the latest progress that the project has enabled over the past 3 years. Among other subjects, researchers will be describing the structure of the integrated approach, as well as related knowledge required to assess and manage the radiological risk with regard to ecosystems.





Establishment of a joint radioecological sensitivity working group with the IUR



The IRSN and the IUR (International Union of Radioecology) established a working group at the end of November 2006 under the title ‘Radioecological sensitivity: An operational tool in federating radioecological knowledge’. The aim of the group is to explore the potential of the concept of radioecological sensitivity as a risk assessment solution that fulfils the requirements of both the scientific community and society as a whole.


The main questions investigated were:

  • How to simplify and unify the representation of the consequences of radioactive contamination in a given area? 
  • What are the common criteria shared by all stakeholders, i.e. the criteria used by decision makers as the basis of their decisions, and the criteria of significance for the local population in the area affected?
  • How can spatially differentiated data be acquired in order to characterise the main components of the environment vulnerable to pollution in real time?


The SENSIB project launched in 2004 by the IRSN is a direct participant in the work of this group. The aim of the SENSIB project is to define a classification system for different environments in order to build a standardised tool capable of representing and comparing the sensitivity of different areas to radioactive pollution using a single measurement scale.





Jean Bricard Prize awarded to François-Xavier Ouf



On Wednesday, 29 November 2006, François-Xavier Ouf, a young researcher at the LPMA, the Aerosol Physics and Metrology Laboratory, was awarded the Jean Bricard Prize for his thesis on the characterisation of aerosol particles discharged during a fire. François-Xavier Ouf studied for his doctoral thesis at LPMA, passing his viva on 17 January 2006 at the University of Rouen. Based on analytic experiments, his research demonstrates that carbon soot particles discharged during a fire should be considered as fractal clusters. All the morphological and dimensional data gathered in the course of this research has been incorporated into theoretical models of the optical behaviour of soot, with a view to determining its radiative properties (complex optical index, specific extinction coefficient, total emissivity). These properties are essential for assessing the influence of such particles on how fire spreads in a nuclear facility.


Every year, the Jean Bricard Prize is awarded to a young French researcher working on his or her doctoral thesis by ASFERA, the French association for aerosol research, to promote research in the area of aerosol science. The prize provides full funding for the prizewinner to attend the European Aerosol Conference, the annual conference organised by the European Aerosol Assembly.




Severe accidents

Summary and future prospects" presentation on severe accidents that may occur in pressurized water reactors



In a 226-page report, CEA and IRSN present the current state of knowledge and research activities, conducted in France or abroad, on severe accidents that could occur in pressurized water reactors. An accident is considered "severe" if the fuel in a nuclear reactor is highly degraded. The report shows that significant uncertainties remain about certain phenomena upon which experimental programmes are currently being conducted.