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Scientific news - 1st semester 2008






The IRSN is investing in the national Centre for Industrial Risk



A research partnership convention was signed at the end of April this year between eight scientific organizations, including the IRSN, that have complementary skills in the field of industrial risk control. The objective of this convention is to structure research and technology transfer within the French National Centre for Industrial Risk (PNRI), an institution created by the French government in 1998 at Bourges. The steering of research and technology transfer projects was entrusted to the Bourges Higher National School of Engineering (ENSIB).

The convention will allow a reinforcement of this technological centre, which is dedicated to technological risk control, by encouraging the emergence of joint projects with the various partners. At the same time, the PNRI will enable a pooling of knowledge for the benefit of companies, in various fields including explosions, hydrogen, systems monitoring and reliability, and, finally, crisis management. The IRSN will become involved more specifically in the field of physical phenomena associated with the propagation of waves following an explosion and their interactions with infrastructures.

In addition to the ENSIB and the IRSN, the following organizations are associated with the research convention: the Poitiers Higher National School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering (ENSMA), the University of Poitiers, the University of Orleans, the Atomic Energy Commissariat (CEA) – Le Ripault (CEA/Le Ripault), the technical Establishment of Bourges – centre for testing and expertise of the French armament procurement agency (ETBS/DGA) and the French National Institute for the Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS).

The 2008 Laurent EXMELIN prize awarded to an IRSN thesis


This year's Laurent EXMELIN scientific prize was awarded to Noëlle Pierrat for her thesis work in the Laboratoire d’évaluation de la dose interne (LEDI, Internal Dose Assessment Laboratory) of the IRSN. The thesis title is «Application of voxelised numerical phantoms combined with the Monte Carlo code MCNPX for realistic in vivo measurements of actinides in lungs and contaminated wounds». The prize will be remitted on June 20, 2008 at the annual meeting of the Procorad association that awards it. Every year, this prize rewards a person who brings a significant scientific contribution in the field of radiotoxicology.


During her thesis work, Noëlle Pierrat developed a new approach to in vivo measurements that combines a Monte Carlo calculation code with numerical phantoms directly based on CT scan or MRI images of subjects. The value of this method has been shown for concrete and realistic case studies of contamination, whether in the lungs or a wound, inaccessible with the classical method. In particular, the technique has yielded the extent of contamination in a real case of a hand wound. In the case of a wound, it should thus improve the determination of the geometry of the contamination source and thus refine the dosimetry calculation.


This innovating approach could make possible a “personalised” calibration of in vivo measurements installations, by including data on either the morphology of the person contaminated or the distribution of contaminants in the body. This is an important step for the creation of personalised dosimetry.

European Commission
 Prospective considerations concerning nuclear fission research

The Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) held a meeting from the 26th to 28th May 2008 in order to finalize the first issue of the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) that is intended to determine research into nuclear fission in Europe over the next 40 years. IRSN is deeply involved in the SNETP. The agenda, along with its implementation and financing strategy, will be made public on November 14th on the occasion of the European Science Days and will be applied from the end of 2008 and over the coming years. However, it may be amended every 2 years in order to take account of new needs.

Nuclear Safety

ASAMPSA2: a new european project
The ASAMPSA2 project (Advanced Safety Assessment Methodologies: level 2 Probabilistic Safety Assessment) was launched last February 19 for 36 months, within the FP7 (Research & Development Framework Programme) of the European Commission. Its goal is to prepare best practices guide for level 2 probabilistic safety assessment (PSA2) methodologies for the purposes of European harmonisation. The guide first addresses nuclear plants in operation in Europe, but the possibility of applying it to future reactors (GEN III, GEN IV) will also be examined. Twenty-one organisations from twelve European countries are participating in this project, coordinated by the IRSN.
Creation of the IRSN/CNRS TRASSE GDR and 1st call for tenders
The cooperation between IRSN and CNRS has been enhanced by a new research group « Radionuclide transfer in soil, subsoil and towards ecosystems » (GDR 3186 TRASSE). This GDR publishes its first call for tenders, which targets two research fields: the study of natural and artificial radionuclide transfer in the soil, in the phreatic aquifer and towards plants; and the study of natural or induced short-circuits in the geological barrier of a nuclear waste disposal.

This new research group is financed equally by each partner and will select research projects in order to develop knowledge in the fields of both geological waste disposal safety and of radionuclide transfer in soils.

Plutonium and health data sheet
A sheet about the consequences for humans of exposure to plutonium has just been published. It add to an already large list of sheets which analyze the impact of some radionuclides on human health or environment.

SYMBIOSE, version 1
The first version of the SYMBIOSE tool was issued at the end of 2007 by the Environmental Modelling Laboratory (LME in French), which develops it. SYMBIOSE is a software platform for simulating the impact on humans of radioactive contamination in the environment: it calculates the radiation dose received via the various compartments of the environment. The power of the tool enables carrying out impact calculations in complex environments involving different ecosystems (atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic) and any type of release (multi-radionuclide, chronic or acute, liquid or gaseous). The version available today is the result of three years of research and two years of industrial development, cofinanced by EDF (Electricité de France).



Nuclear Safety


SERENA project Phase 2 underway


Phase 2 of the OECD’s SERENA project (Steam Explosion REsolution for Nuclear Applications) was launched on 15 and 16 January 2008 at the NEA in Paris during meetings of the programme’s monitoring board. SERENA aims to assess understanding of steam explosion phenomena in a pressurised nuclear reactor and the computing potential of numerical tools in this field. The project’s second phase, which will run until 2011, will be more specifically dedicated to studying the phenomenon of fuel-coolant interaction when this occurs ex-vessel.

The kick-off meetings approved the work programme and laid out conditions for performing the first tests in 2008. A new unit called AWG (Analytical Working Group), complementary to the Programme Review Group and the Management Committee, will develop computer codes in preparation for the tests, interpret the results and transpose them for use in the context of nuclear reactors. The next round of meetings will take place at KAERI in the Republic of Korea on 15 and 16 October 2008 when the first test results and their interpretation will be discussed.

Nuclear Safety

Scientific cooperation meeting: March 18, 2008

Next March 18, the IRSN and the CNRS will celebrate the creation of a common laboratory, the MIST, by holding a seminar on their scientific cooperation in the field of nuclear safety. This new laboratory has been designed to examine the thermo-mechanical behaviour of materials exposed to harmful environments such as nuclear fuel. The laboratory is the living proof of the desire of both organisations to reinforce these research orientations beyond the many joint projects already existing, including theses and research programmes.

The seminar will be the occasion for two voices to tell you about joint work on assessing the risk of fuel rod ruptures and iodine releases into the atmosphere in case of a nuclear accident. There will also be posters concerning about 20 other joints projects.

The seminar will be held at the Cadarache center (Bouches-du-Rhône Department) with visits to IRSN experimental installations planned.

 For more information and to register (within the number of places available), return the enclosed invitation or send an e-mail to


 MIST: the new IRSN-CNRS common laboratory


The CNRS and IRSN have just joined forces to set up a new laboratory to study the thermomechanical behaviour of materials exposed to harmful environments (high thermomechanical loads, natural and induced ageing, etc.), particularly fuel materials used in nuclear power plants. This laboratory devoted to micromechanics and structural integrity – called MIST - pools research resources from both organisations: those from the Major Accident Prevention Division (DPAM) at Cadarache for IRSN, and those from the Mechanics and Civil Engineering Laboratory (LMGC) in Montpellier for the CNRS and University of Montpellier 2. The laboratory will broaden the scope of existing collaboration between these organisations, while providing a flexible yet durable structural framework with the resources needed to solve reputedly difficult scientific problems.


As the scientific topics covered by the MIST laboratory will be more general than the targeted applications, each partner will be able to take advantage of knowledge and skills developed within this project. From IRSN’s viewpoint, the objective is to have access to independent modelling tools to assess new safety demonstrations proposed by nuclear operators.


Book on radioactive fall-out from Chernobyl accident in France
IRSN has just published a book entitled "Radioactive fall-out in France from the Chernobyl accident – environmental consequences and human exposure”, where it conducts a new assessment of radioactive fall-out in France caused by the accident. This book provides a report on knowledge acquired through the numerous scientific studies conducted in France since the first edition was published in 1999.


Charles Motzkus awarded the Jean Bricard Prize


On Wednesday, 16 January 2008, Charles Motzkus, a former IRSN doctoral student, was awarded the Jean Bricard Prize for his thesis investigating particles put into suspension upon impact by droplets. Charles Motzkus held his viva for this thesis, written between 2004 and 2007 at the Aerosol Physics and Metrology Laboratory (LPMA), on 14 December 2007 at Paris-XII University. He is currently working as a temporary teaching and research assistant (ATER) at the Thermal Science, Environment and Systems Research Centre (CERTES) and at the Créteil-Vitry University Institute of Technology.

The Jean Bricard Prize was officially presented to Charles Motzkus by the Chairman of the ASFERA (French Association for Aerosol Research) and also to David Delhaye, from the ONERA, for his work on characterising soot produced by aircraft engines. This prize is awarded in recognition of young researchers for their important and original contributions to aerosol science.

 see the thesis subject of Charles Motzkus



Radioactive waste repository

First issue of Tournemire Infos


Tournemire Infos is a new newsletter about the research led in the experimental Tournemire station. Thanks to this facility, IRSN acquires the knowledge and skills necessary to perform safety analysis on the concepts submitted by Andra to develop a radioactive waste repository in Meuse/Haute Marne (Eastern France).


Waste repository

Tournemire becomes part of the IAEA Centres of Excellence Network



On 30 July 2007, the Tournemire experimental station became part of the IAEA network of Centres of Excellence in the area of Training in and demonstration of waste disposal technologies in underground research facilities. The 27 member states in this network pool use of their experimental resources in this scientific field. One of the network’s main aims is to encourage knowledge and technology transfer; it also assists member states who do not have the experimental resources needed to tackle the issues of the feasibility and safety of geological radioactive waste repositories (see presentation of the network on the IAEA website).

The LEHG, IRSN’s laboratory in charge of the Tournemire site, proposed to the excellence network a number of training and research initiatives to be held at the site during the period 2008-2012. These initiatives have been accepted. Tournemire’s inclusion in the network will enable IRSN to promote its research and assessment work within the framework of the programme on geological repositories for high-level radioactive waste to the international community.

 description of the Tournemire experimental station

 IRSN laboratories involved in research on geological repositories :

.LEHG (Laboratoire d'études hydrodynamique et géotechnique – Hydrodynamical and geotechnical transfer laboratory (LEHG))
.LETS (Laboratoire d’étude des transferts dans les sols et sous-sols - Laboratory for near-surface and sub-surface transfer studies)
.SSIAD (Service de sûreté des irradiateurs, des accélérateurs et de la gestion des déchets, ex-Service de sûreté des déchets radioactifs - Irradiator, Accelerator and Radioactive Waste Safety Department, formerly known as the Radioactive Waste Safety Department)