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1st semester 2014 scientific news


   Research program


PRISME 2 international program: series of tests on electrical cable fires completed


The second of four series of tests under the PRISME 2 program, launched by IRSN in July 2011, has just been completed. The purpose of the tests was to study the propagation of an electrical cabinet fire to cable raceways and the spread of fire between raceways. In particular, the tests revealed the risk of a rapid pressure rise in rooms following the re-ignition of unburned gases. PRISME 2, an OECD-led program involving 15 French and international partners, investigates under experimental conditions the propagation of fire and smoke in the rooms of a confined and ventilated nuclear facility. The tests were performed in the DIVA multi-room facility, part of IRSN’s GALAXIE fire experiment platform. They simulated fire scenarios liable to be encountered in various types of nuclear facilities, such as fuel cycle laboratories and nuclear reactors. The DIVAfacility will soon be fitted out for the third series of tests, planned between November 2014 and February 2015, to study the performance of various fire extinguishing systems.


Find out more about PRISME and PRISME 2 programs

Find out more about GALAXIE platform



Research units


New four-year mandate for C3R, a joint research laboratory on core melt accidents



The Laboratory for the Study of Chemical Kinetics, Combustion and Reactivity (C3R) had its mandate extended for another four years following a meeting of its steering committee on January 24, 2014. The research laboratory, created in September 2009, pools the equipment, staff and funding of two of IRSN's facilities, the Corium and Radioelement Transfer Research Laboratory (LETR) and the Environment and Chemistry Experimental Research Laboratory (L2EC), and the Laboratory for the Physical Chemistry of Processes linked to Combustion and the Atmosphere (PC2A/UMR 8522), a joint unit of CNRS and Université de Lille 1.

The results of the C3R's first four years of work include significant advances in the physical chemistry of iodine during its transfer in the reactor coolant system of a nuclear reactor during a core melt accident. The advances can be credited to a multidisciplinary approach combining experimental and theoretical chemistry, a new addition in this area. The French Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (AERES) noted the remarkable results in its very positive assessment of C3R following its tour of PC2A on November 14-15, 2013.

Research for the next four years aims to improve understanding of the risk of radioactive releases into the environment and limit its consequences. In particular, they involve the physical chemistry of ruthenium in the reactor coolant system and gaseous iodine in the containment building, as well as new research topics, including the chemistry of gaseous iodine in the environment and the physicochemical interactions between gaseous and aerosol forms of chemical species.

In addition to the scientific results, other positive benefits can be credited to C3R, a gateway between academic research and IRSN's finalized research. It has given IRSN the opportunity to be associated with a number of PC2A's projects, including the CAPPA laboratory of excellence. PC2A has likewise been associated with the MIRE project on mitigating radioactive releases in the environment in the event of a nuclear accident, which is sponsored by ANR and coordinated by IRSN. IRSN has developed successful partnerships with other laboratories at Université de Lille 1 (LASIR, PhLAM and UCCS), which will likely be continued based on an agreement between IRSN and the Université de Lille 1. Finally, thanks to PC2A, IRSN has acquired tools in theoretical chemistry that it is now using outside of the partnership in other fields involving safety at nuclear facilities.


Find out more about C3R

Find out more about LETR

Find out more about L2EC



Research program


Launch of the ANR AGORAS project



The kickoff meeting for the AGORAS project to improve governance of nuclear safety organizations and networks was held on April 14, 2014. It brought together the various partners that are signatories to the project: IRSN's Human and Social Sciences Laboratory (LSHS), École des Mines de Nantes (project coordinator), Centre de Gestion Scientifique of the École des Mines de Paris, Center for the Sociology of Organizations of Sciences-Po Paris and Areva. AGORAS is one of 14 projects selected by the French National Research Agency (ANR) in which IRSN is participating in a call for projects concerning nuclear safety and radiation protection research launched after the Fukushima accident. Expected to last five years, AGORAS is structured around two modules, accident prevention and emergency management. The goal of the first is to analyze the impact of the Fukushima accident on the approach to safety by nuclear facilities and the relationships between those working in nuclear risk governance. The goal of the second is to analyze how this accident has contributed to changing the perception of nuclear accidents and the methods for how preparations for accident and post-accident situations are managed. IRSN is coordinating two efforts as part of the project. The first will identify organizational and cultural conditions that influenced decisions about the Fukushima nuclear power plant (technical choices, design options, etc.) that ultimately proved to be inappropriate. The second concerns the technical dialogue following the accident that was part of the stress tests to understand how the occurrence of a major accident can lead to a reassessment of previous safety practices; it involves identifying the conditions that favor the reassessment as well as those that impede it.


Find out more about LSHS


Research program


Launch of the ANR PRIODAC project



On March 27, 2014, IRSN launched the PRIODAC project with its four scientific partners (CEA, Pharmacie Centrale des Armées, Université d’Aix-Marseille and Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis). It is one of the seven projects led by IRSN and approved by ANR, the French National Research Agency, as part of the the calls for the 2012 Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research (RSNR) project. The goal of PRIODAC is to determine methods for administering stable iodine to people in an area where there have been repeated or extended radioactive releases such as those observed in Fukushima. It will determine optimal dosage and administration, as well as potential side effects for various population groups (babies, infants, adults, pregnant women, etc.) in order to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer. Initial results are expected in five years. The conclusion of the project should lead to a change in the current authorization to market potassium iodide tablets and the proposal for a new “iodine” policy in the event of a nuclear accident.


Find out more about LRTOX

Find out more about LRC




The 3rd issue of Aktis, IRSN’s scientific newsletter, is available 


The third 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. In this issue, focus on the new prospects in low-dose radiotoxicology, and it also talks about the calculation of the supercritical space. The subscription for the English and French versions is complimentary. To read this issue or subscribe, go to




LM2E hosted the BIOPROTA International Forum



On April 1-3, 2014, IRSN's Environmental Modeling Laboratory (LM2E) hosted the BIOPROTA International Forum on modeling carbon-14 behavior in the biosphere. Held in the Centre Aquabella in Aix-en-Provence (France), the forum provided the opportunity to briefly review the major issues and results of the previous event held in Stockholm (Sweden) in 2013. LM2E presented the latest improvements to the Tocatta(-Khi) model to simulate carbon-14 transfers in the terrestrial environment and its comparison with the SSPAM14C model and environmental data from the prairie ecosystem of La Hague. Materials from the BIOPROTA forum will be available on the web in several weeks.


 Further information about BIOPROTA

 Find out more about LM2E


Research program


ANR PERFROI project launched



PERFROI, an experimental project led by IRSN concerning research on loss of cooling, was launched on January 23rd, 2014 for a period of six years.  The project sets out to improve understanding of nuclear reactor core cooling in the event of a loss of coolant accident – or LOCA. PERFROI will focus on two lines of experimentation: the thermomechanical aspects of fuel rod deformation and failure under LOCA conditions, and thermal-hydraulic aspects of a reactor core that has been partially clogged during cooling due to the arrival of water from the safety injection systems. The results of this experimental program will be used in assessing the assumptions made by nuclear operators to demonstrate reactor core coolability under LOCA conditions and to validate the DRACCAR computer code developed by IRSN for its own studies. This project is one of seven led by IRSN and approved by ANR, the French National Research Agency, as part of the the calls for the 2012 Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research (RSNR) project. In addition to IRSN, PERFROI involves an industrial partner (EDF) and two research partners, LaMCoS, an INSA Lyon research laboratory, and LEMTA Nancy, a laboratory at the University of Lorraine.


 Find out more about LE2M

 Find out more about LR2E

 Find out more about LIMAR



Research program


The ANR MIRE project gets under way


In January 2014, IRSN officially launched the MIRE project on the mitigation of radioactive release following a nuclear accident. MIRE is one of seven projects  led by IRSN and approved by ANR, the French National Research Agency, as part of the calls for the 2012 Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research (RSNR) projects. In addition to IRSN, the project involves seven research partners, including four CNRS laboratories and two industrial partners (EDF and Areva). MIRE aims to provide greater insight into the source term with a view to obtaining a more accurate estimation of the radioactive substances (in particular the radioactive isotopes of iodine, cesium and ruthenium) that may be released over time as a result of a nuclear accident, and to improve containment venting and filtering systems designed to limit this release. The project will provide essential knowledge for assessing the efficiency of existing filters for gaseous release and developing filtering systems that are innovative, effective and robust to minimize radioactive release. MIRE is scheduled to last six years.


 Find out more about LETR

 Find out more about L2EC

 Find out more about LPMA



Research program


Launch of the ANR AMORAD project



On 1 November 2013, IRSN launched the six-year AMORAD project, which has been selected by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the calls for the 2012 Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research (RSNR) projects. The goal of Amorad is to improve the models to forecast environmental dispersion of radionuclides, which will lead to the development of tools to assess the impact of radioactive releases from nuclear facilities after an accident (as well as other situations, including normal operation). It will also assess the impact of radionuclides on two environmental compartments involving traces of the Fukushima accident, the marine environment and land ecosystems and related surface water. The project should resolve doubts that remain about calculations and modelling to assess radiological and dosimetric consequences in the event of a severe accident such as those at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Under the coordination of IRSN, which will employ the services of seven laboratories (six from the Radiation Protection Unit and one from the Nuclear Safety Unit), AMORAD brings together 13 partners from the fields of oceanography, geochemistry, applied biology, etc. IRSN, Andra and the University of Tsukuba in Japan performed a preliminary sampling campaign last November and December in the cedar forests of Kawamata, a town near Fukushima. IRSN, and LSCE, along with BRGM, have also taken samples of water, suspended mater and sediments in the surrounding streams in order to estimate the quantity of radionuclides due to soil leaching.


 Find out more about AMORAD


Research program


Launch of the ANR DENOPI project



On 1st December 2013, IRSN launched the DENOPI project on core uncovery in spent fuel pools during an accident. It is one of seven projects overseen by IRSN that have been selected by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the calls for the 2012 Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research (RSNR) projects. In addition to IRSN, the project involves three research partners: CNRS, École des Mines de St-Étienne and Université d'Auvergne. The goal of the DENOPI project is to further knowledge about core uncovery in a spent fuel pool during an accident. It involves performing experiments, the results of which will serve as the basis for developing mathematical models and validating numerical simulation tools such as DRACCAR or ASTEC developed by IRSN (in conjunction with GRS for ASTEC). DENOPI should provide some answers to issues raised after the Fukushima accident in 2011 about potential pool uncovery accident scenarios and methods to implement to reduce their consequences. The project is scheduled to last six years.


 Find out more about LIMAR

 Find out more about LE2M

 Find out more about LR2E


Research program


Kickoff for the ANR MITHYGENE project



The MITHYGENE project is one of the seven projects led by IRSN and selected by the French National Research Agency (ANR) within the framework of calls for the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Research Project (RSNR) in 2012. In addition to IRSN, the project involves seven partners, one academic (CNRS), two institutional (CEA and the German Research Institute, Jülich) and four industrial (Elta, EDF, Areva and Air Liquide). MITHYGENE aims to improve understanding of phenomena involved in the risk of hydrogen explosion in the event of a severe nuclear reactor accident, as well as to develop instrumentation which improves the management of such risk (measuring concentrations of hydrogen, water vapour and air) and to improve procedures for limiting it. Last, the accident that occurred at Fukushima in 2011 will be analysed during the project from the angle of hydrogen risk with a view to learning lessons for reactor safety in France. IRSN will be coordinating analysis of the events at Fukushima, improving hydrogen combustion models and synthesising all the results of the project, expected to last five years from mid-2013.


 Find out more about the LECEV

 Find out more about the LIE



Research program


LR21 obtains ANR funding for the innovative project, ANTHOS



IRSN has just obtained funding from ANR, the French National Research Agency, for ANTHOS, a new project coordinated by the Institute. The €545,000 grant was awarded following an ANR call for proposals in connection with RPIB, a biomedical innovation program that seeks to promote the transfer of public research results for industrial applications in healthcare. The ANTHOS project (Prerequisites for the use of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) combined with locally injected hydrogel and mimetic HS for treating the after-effects of abdominal-pelvic radiation therapy) has been kicked off in February 2014 by the Research on Irradiated Healthy Tissue Regeneration Laboratory (LR2I). The project is scheduled to last three years. Its aim is to develop a new strategy for improving the effectiveness of MSC-based cell therapy in treating the severe after-effects that may be induced by pelvic radiation therapy. The new strategy will use cell therapy in conjunction with a biomaterial to improve the healing of colon mucosa after radiation exposure.  IRSN, working with CTSA Percy, the French Armed Forces Blood Transfusion Center, has already demonstrated that repeated intravenous MSC injections improve healing of radiation-induced colorectal ulcers*. The demonstration involved not only various experimental models (mice, rats, mini-pigs) but also patients receiving experimental treatment after severe overexposure (e.g. following the accident in Epinal). The healing process can be improved through the use of MSC-loaded biomaterials. This new local delivery method for stem cells would not only increase the time the cells remain in the tissues after injection, but also protects the stromal cells from damage to irradiated tissues. The Anthos project will be based on a strategy in which MSCs are incorporated into a hydrogel made from a biomaterial known as hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC), which will serve as a matrix, and injected to the target area via colonoscopy.  At the same time, regenerating agents – or RGTAs – will be used to stimulate the secretory capacity of the MSCs for more effective treatment. At the end of the project, the results could be used to begin a clinical study of this therapeutic strategy prior to its use by clinicians or approval for experimental treatment.  In some cases it could avoid the need for major surgery or, when such surgery is recommended, improve the healing process in damaged tissue.


*See R. Bessout's thesis defended in 2012 





Seven calls for projects issued for the French NEEDS program



Seven calls for projects have been issued as part of France's NEEDS "challenge" on nuclear energy, the environment, waste and society. Several winning projects will be selected for each of the seven joint projects in this national research program. NEEDS, which was launched in 2012 by the CNRS "Mission for Interdisciplinarity", pools interdisciplinary research in the nuclear field, covering all the links between nuclear technology, the natural world and society. IRSN is one of six partners (IRSN, CEA, Areva, Andra, EDF, BRGM) working with CNRS on this challenge. The Institute jointly leads the environmental project with CNRS and jointly funds four more.


Bids must be submitted before midnight,February 25, 2014 via the web pages presenting each call for project (links below):




Intensive European cooperation on radiation protection research



In Brussels on 5 December 2013, the presidents of the European research platforms MELODI, European Radioecology Alliance (the Alliance), NERIS and EURADOS signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to confirm their joint commitment to consolidating and implementing a strategic vision for radiation protection research in Europe.




The memorandum of understanding was signed by (from left to right) Frank Hardeman (Alliance president), Thierry Schneider (NERIS president), Jacques Repussard (MELODI President) and Filip Vanhavere on behalf of Helmut Schuhmacher (EURADOS President) in the presence of Bruno Schmitz (head of Unit K4 “Fission” at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation). ©IRSN


The cooperation between MELODI, the Alliance, NERIS and EURADOS was launched as part of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), and more specifically as part of the Open Project for the European Radiation Research Area (OPERRA). The goal of OPERRA is to build the structures necessary for managing long-term European research programmes on radiation protection. The signatory organisations decided to establish a Joint Radiation Protection Research Roadmap Committee, with the goal of coordinating as necessary their respective strategic research agendas and priority roadmaps. Further joint working groups will be set up in areas of joint concern for the benefit of European radiation protection research. MELODI will be responsible for administration and coordination. The MoU is open to membership for other European organisations interested in radiation protection research.  


 See the IRSN's press release

 Find out more about IRSN's cooperation efforts in Europe

 Find out more about MELODI

 Find out more about the Alliance

 Find out more about EURADOS

 Find out more about NERIS