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1st semester 2015 scientific news


EventOutcomes of the STAR network of excellence presented during its final dissemination symposium
The final dissemination symposium of the STAR network (Strategy for Allied Radioecology) has been held on June 9, 10 and 11, 2015 in Aix-en-Provence (France). For four years and a half, this network of excellence, which was launched in February 2011, was coordinated by the IRSN (Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety) and funded under the European Commission's FP7 (7th Framework Program). It brought together 11 partners from 10 different countries, primarily in order to strengthen the science of radioecology by sharing and mutualising the knowledge, tools, infrastructure and research efforts of the partners involved.

This symposium has been an opportunity to present the main outcomes of the project, including:
  • the integration of the radioecology community into an ever-evolving European landscape, including the production of a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) dedicated to radioecology;
  • the reinforcement and development of radioecology training programs at the European level;
  • the implementation of tools to promote data sharing and dissemination, with the creation of a dedicated website;
  • the integration of methods for assessing radiological risk to human health and the environment, with the production/creation of a new tool dedicated to integrated risk assessment (CROMERICA);
  • an examination of the adequacy of current environmental radiation protection criteria in more complex and realistic exposure situations such as multi-pollutant contexts and chronic low doses of ionising radiation, along with proposal of endpoints relevant from an ecological point of view.

A special session was dedicated to research work carried out in relation to the Fukushima accident, with discussion sessions enhancing exchanges between the hundred or so participants operating in research, civil society, operators, regulators, and international organisations.

A new version of the CRISTAL criticality package is now available
The IRSN just delivered a new version of the CRISTAL criticality package, developed as part of a collaboration with AREVA and the French Atomic Energy Commission. The CRISTAL package is a calculation tool for evaluating the risk of criticality (unintentionally starting and maintaining a nuclear fission chain reaction) in fuel cycle installations or during the transport of radioactive materials. It comprises neutronic software (including the MORET Monte Carlo code developed by the IRSN), a nuclear database, calculation procedures, and a graphical user interface (the LATEC workbench developed by the IRSN).

Version 2.0 offers new features and improvements upon the previous version that was made available in 2007, taking into account collected feedback on previous versions of the CRISTAL package. It boasts improved calculation models, updated nuclear data, and the latest advances in calculation software. The LATEC workbench, the new graphical user interface, offers features that are better than those of the previous CIGALES interface: 
  • using a unique model, input files for various CRISTAL calculation routes are automatically generated and the calculation options best suited to the modeled configurations are automatically selected
  • calculation series are automatically launched for different sets of input parameters
  • modeled configurations are displayed in 3D and data verifications and modifications are tracked to facilitate sharing for collaborative projects
Lastly, the validation database for the CRISTAL package has been increased from 2300 criticality experiments to 3127, so as to meet the needs expressed by users to the fullest extent possible, validate new features for the package, and integrate new programs that are currently available in the literature. To date, more than 2300 experiments out of the planned 3127 have already been calculated using CRISTAL V2.0. The resulting discrepancies with regard to the previous version have been analyzed to verify that the new version yields acceptable discrepancies between calculations and experimental results and to identify improvements that should be made.

Notably, the CRISTAL package was used for the Mirte research program that was completed last year. The goal of the program was to study how structural materials that may be used between or around fissile environments affect criticality risk.

CollaborationsIRSN strengthens its relationship with the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The IRSN has just obtained funding from the NIH (National Institutes of Health),   the American national agency for health and biomedical research, for a one-year pilot project on the Evaluation of the therapeutic effects of exosomes in the gastro-intestinal syndrome. The aim of this project is to extend the research conducted by IRSN's Research laboratory in irradiated healthy tissue regeneration (LR2I) to new therapeutic approaches based on the use of stem cells to treat induced by high doses of ionizing radiation.

The NIH is an agency of the US Government's Department of Health and Human Services and is one of the world's most prestigious and reputed medical research institutions. The IRSN's pilot project is part of the CMCR program (Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation), which aims to promote collaboration between different university institutions to conduct new research on development of medical countermeasures in the event of accidental exposure of the civil population. The NIH is financing the pilot project, which will be conducted in association with a team from the department of oncology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. In obtaining this funding, the IRSN strengthens its relations in international research, with the NIH and more broadly with the USA.


EventMajor IRSN presence at ICAPP 2015
From 3 to 6 May in Nice, France, the IRSN will be participating in the 2015 International Congress on Advances in nuclear Power Plants (ICAPP), organized by Logo_icapp15_reference.jpgthe Société française d'énergie nucléaire and sponsored by the American Nuclear Society, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, and the Korean Nuclear Society. Reflecting the debate under way, especially in France, on the future of energy production, this year’s theme is ‘Nuclear Innovations for a Low-Carbon Future’.

The IRSN will play a major role in the conference, where events will be organized into ten distinct tracks. The institute’s representatives will be presiding over several technical discussions on facility safety assessment and regulations (Track 5, which the IRSN is in charge of coordinating) and fourth-generation reactors (Track 3), and they will be presenting nineteen papers in six of the ten tracks.

ICAPP 2015 will address breakthroughs in nuclear facility and reactor design, the fuel cycle, and extended applications of nuclear energy, including cogeneration, transport, and the industrial sector.   

Registration is still open.



The 7th issue of Aktis, IRSN’s scientific newsletter, is available 


Aktis-7.jpg The seventh English-language issue of Aktis, the quarterly newsletter on IRSN’s research, is available on a HTML and PDF package. Aktis is published only in a digital version and available in HTML or text format for e-mail, RSS and a pageflip PDF. 


In this issue, focus on advanced modeling of fuel behavior during reactivity accidents; it also talks about tritium concentration in marine organisms and about an international approach to identifiy the root causes of childhood leukemia.


The subscription for the English and French versions is complimentary. To read this issue or subscribe, go to


To read the pageflip PDF



The IRSN presents its first "Three minutes thesis" award
The first IRSN "Three minutes thesis" contest took place during the 2015 edition of the Journées des thèses (Theses Days), a seminar for IRSN PhD students. Élodie Mintet, a PhD student at the Research on Radiobiology and Radiopathology Laboratory (L3R), received the award for her presentation entitled "Irradiated endothelial cells: a elodie-400.jpgmigratory population?" about her thesis, "Phenotypic changes in irradiated endothelial cells: implication of endothelial to mesenchymal cell transition in the development of healthy tissue injury during radiation therapy."

Ten volunteer PhD students participated in the contest, with the following goal: to summarize three years of thesis work in three minutes in the most interesting and clear way possible in front of the Journées des thèses visitors. This was an excellent way for them to improve their communication skills and to become able to synthesize their research topics while putting them in perspective. The winner was elected by a jury composed of members of the public, the IRSN Strategy Director, and a representative of the Scientific Director.

The IRSN contest, "Three minutes thesis", was inspired by the contest entitled "Ma thèse en 180 secondes" (MT180, My thesis in 180 seconds) organized in France by groups of volunteer universities, with support from the CNRS and the Conference of University Presidents (CPU). The concept originally came from an Australian university in Queensland, which created "Three minutes thesis" (3MT) in 2008, an initiative later replicated in 2012 by the Association des savoirs francophones (Acfas, Association of Francophone knowledge).

Photo: Élodie Mintet during the contest. © IRSN

AwardMarc Barrachin receives the IRSN Creativity Award
Marc Barrachin, a researcher at the Corium Study and Radioelement Transfer Laboratory (LETR), received the second IRSN Research Creativity Award on April 1st, 2015. The aim of this award is to reward innovative research projects which possess a quite high industrial risk coefficient, referred to as “exploratory” research projects.

The award was presented at the Exploratory Research Day, which was held during the 2015 DSC_0204.JPGJournées des thèses (Theses Days), a seminar dedicated to IRSN PhD students. It was given in recognition of the researcher’s BESTAIR project (Beryllium Source Term due to an Accident in the ITER experimental reactor) which aims at creating thermal-hydraulic database for the gaseous forms of the Beryllium-Oxygen-Hydrogen-Tritium system. The goal of the project was to increase knowledge on the amounts and chemical forms of the berylliated and tritiated substances which could be released to the environment in the case of a loss of containment at the ITER’s experimental fusion facility. The BESTAIR project, conducted in partnership with LETR post-doctorate student François Virot, relied on a critical analysis of the existing literature and on theoretical chemistry calculations in order to fill the knowledge gaps.

The IRSN’s “exploratory” research instrument is designed to foster the innovation and creativity of the researchers. It offers them the opportunity to promote an original idea on a topic which is not covered in current or planned research programs; a program which gathers great scientific or societal significance for the Institute and high industrial risk due to its innovative nature. “Exploratory” projects are selected by a permanent internal assessment committee made up of members appointed by the Scientific Director. Each project has a maximum budget of 150,000 euros for 24 months of research, and is evaluated at its very end after submission of a final report.

The award was presented to one of six noteworthy projects selected among the ones completed in the period 2012-2014. The coordinators of the six projects were asked to present on them during the Exploratory Research Day.

In 2012, the first IRSN Creativity Research Award was attributed to Sabine Charmasson, a researcher at LERCM (Laboratory for Continental and Marine Radioecological Studies), for her work on high levels of radioactivity in organisms living near hydrothermal sources deep in the ocean.

Photo : François Virot and Marc Barrachin (on the right) during Thesis Days. © IRSN


Computer codesA new version of the DRACCAR software is available
A new version of the DRACCAR software has just been finalized. This tool, used to simulate the behavior of one or more fuel assemblies during loss of coolant accidents (LOCA), now has new functions (such as refining the azimuthal meshing of fuel rods and a point neutronic model) thanks to research carried out at the Institute.

Developed by the IRSN and cofinanced by EDF, this software sets itself apart from other similar programs by offering detailed modeling of the thermo-mechanical effects of contact between fuel rods during a LOCA.

Version 2.2 of the DRACCAR software has been supplied to EDF as well as the ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development).  It has been validated against 119 tests from sixteen different experimental in-pile programs, such as CORA 13 (ISP 31), PHEBUS LOCA, PHEBUS FPT, Halden IFA 650, and out-of-pile tests such as EDGAR, FEBA and PERICLES.


EventIRSN is organizing an iodine workshop in conjunction with the NEA and European Commission
In conjunction with the NEA (the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency), the European Commission and the NUGENIA/SARNET network of excellence, the IRSN is organizing an international workshop focusing on what we know about how iodine behaves during nuclear reactor accidents. The workshop will take place in Marseille (France) from March 30 to April 1 2015.

During the seminar, emphasis will be placed on recent advances made in the chemical modeling of iodine and ruthenium in the primary circuit and containment building of a nuclear reactor where there has been an accident. A major objective will be to consolidate the priorities for future research programs, particularly upon the conclusion of the STEM, BIP2 and THAI 2 programs that are being run by the OECD.

This workshop will bring together over seventy experts from thirty-one organizations (representing research, safety, technical support and producers) across fourteen different countries. There will be thirty-one presentations spread out over six sessions.


EventIRSN co-organizes, under the aegis of the CNRS, the "Deform School' on earthquakes
In February, the IRSN helped organize, alongside the CNRS, the CNES, the IUGG (International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics) and a number of laboratories (IPGP, Géoazur, Cerege), the "Deform School 2015": a week-long thematic school on tectonic plates deformation and earthquakes. This event was designed to match the modeling methods with the data collected on the ground, in order to help improve the effic20150211_Deform-School.jpgiency of earthquake assessments. The school was held at the Séolane center in Barcelonnette, in the southern French Alps, and brought together some 80 students and 30 scientists from around the world.

For one full week, the doctoral and post-doctoral researchers invited to the event were able to benefit from the teaching dispensed in the form of lectures, classes and poster presentations from senior researchers, specialists in seismology, geomorphology, fault geometry, paleoseismology, rheology, etc.

As event sponsor, the IRSN also contributed to the various theoretical and practical taught elements, in particular by organizing and guiding a geology trip in the Digne region. The Institute also presented methods for assessing earthquake hazards, which it is developing for its requirements in nuclear safety expertise.

Photo: Jean-Claude Hippolyte (Cerege) teaching students. © IRSN



Mermose project: final test campaign


The aircraft engine emission reactivity measurement and study project "Mesure et Etude de la Réactivité des émissions de MOteurS aEronautiques" (Mermose) has entered its final phase, after a final series of tests carried out in December 2014. Bringing together researchers and engineers from the IRSN, CNRS, ONERA and Snecma, the Mermose project is aimed at achieving a better characterisation of particulate emissions from aircraft engines (especially soot) to assess their effect on the climate. This involves the study of the contrails induced by these particles. Indeed, these trails may evolve into clouds (cirrus) and contribute to the increase in the cloud cover in geographical areas where the air corridors are located.  The IRSN has contributed to this project through its specialized knowledge of the physics and metrology of aerosols, which it acquired about soot within the context of its research programs on fires.



Two test campaigns were conducted on a Snecma and Onera test bench, to study the formation conditions of the soot emitted by an aircraft engine (a Safran turbojet) and the ice that forms at the engine outlet at cruise altitude, as well as the interactions between this soot and ice. The purpose of the last series of tests was to study the functioning of the engine combustion chamber under realistic flight conditions (temperature and pressure representative of the cruising altitude). The previous campaign was used to test cruising engine speed conditions "on the ground" (temperature and pressure on the ground). The researchers also received the Medal of the French National Air and Space Academy for this campaign, last November in Toulouse. This medal, which grants recognition to public figures who have contributed to progress in the field of Air and Space, was awarded to all of the participating teams.



The IRSN will participate in the comparison of the test campaigns and the analysis of the final results, which will take place throughout 2015.




Find out more about Aerosol Physics and Metrology Laboratory (LPMA)

Find out more about Mermose

Find out more about Air and Space Academy





Launching of the second OPERRA call for projects


The OPERRA consortium (Open Project for European Radiation Research Area) published its second call for radiation protection research projects on the 15th of December. Submissions will be accepted up until the 12th of March 2015, with proposals on four research themes:

  • Development of radiological monitoring strategies, processes and tools;
  • Spatial and temporal environmental modelling and human dose assessment after a nuclear accident;
  • Development of health surveillance procedures;
  • Biological indicators of radiation exposure, effects, health risk and disease susceptibility to inform emergency management and epidemiological studies.



This call for proposals was launched under the coordination of the IRSN and the other 33 partners in the European consortium; it is based on the identification of 15 research priorities established by a group of experts and supported by the survey among the scientific community conducted between the 1st of July and the 15th of September last year, the results of which were published in Barcelona last October at the 6th MELODI conference. This call is thus aimed at improving the cooperation between the four European radiation protection platforms MELODI (low doses), ALLIANCE (radioecology), NERIS (emergency management) and EURADOS (dosimetry).



The OPERRA project is a four-year project that is aimed at establishing a coordination and integration structure for European radiation protection research. The European Commission will delegate the organisation of future calls for radiation protection research projects to this structure.



Find out more about the call for projects

 Find out more about the OPERRA project




New dissertation in the IRSN’s Authorization to Direct Research (HDR) series


The IRSN’s HDR series was enriched with a new Authorization to Direct Research dissertation by Pascal Bailly du Bois in October 2013. Its title is "Dispersion des radionucléides dans les mers du nord-ouest de l’Europe : observations et modélisation". This dissertation presents the work carried out by Pascal Bailly du Bois at the Cherbourg-Octeville Radioecology Laboratory (LRC-Oct).




It summarises thirty years of research on the movement and fate of radionuclides in the seas of North-West Europe, especially the English Channel, the North Sea, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea. The fields addressed open up research opportunities in the fields of hydrodynamics, sediment transport and the knowledge of pollutant transfers within the marine ecosystem. Operational tools may also benefit from it.




This HDR dissertation is now available on the website in PDF format, in the Scientific Books Collection, but it is also possible to order a paper copy.






New appointments to the Scientific Council of the IRSN



The new members of the IRSN's Scientific Council have been appointed for five years by a joint order of six ministries (Environment, Research, Health, Defense, Labor, and Industry), issued December 29, 2014, and published in the government gazette on January 3, 2015. In keeping with the terms of its founding decree, each ministry put forward two members. Below is the list of the 12 members:

  • Mr. Pierre Toulhoat, scientific director at theNational competence centre for Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection(INERIS). He has been assigned the position of president of the Scientific Council.
  • Mr. Jean-Christophe Amabile, chief medical officer and a radiation protection specialist at the French Armed Forces' Radiation Protection Department (SPRA).
  • Mr. Hugues Delorme, a neutron transport professor at the French School of Military Applications for Atomic Energy (EAMEA).
  • Ms. Patsy Thompson, director of environmental assessment and protection at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
  • Mr. Frank Hardeman, director in charge of radiation protection, environment, and health at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (SCK-CEN).
  •  Mr. Jean-Paul Moatti, university professor and director of Mixed Research Unit 912, Economic & Social Sciences of Health and Medical Information Processing (AMU/INSERM/IRD).
  • Mr. Guy Frija, doctor and radiology professor at the Paris-Descartes Faculty.
  • Mr. Denis Veynante, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
  • Mr. Eric Andrieu, professor at the National Polytechnique Institute of Toulouse.
  • Mr. Bernard Bonin, deputy scientific director of the nuclear energy department within the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
  • Mr. Denis Gambini, medical practitioner and researcher at the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris.
  • Mr. Didier Baptiste, scientific director of the French National Institute for Research and Safety for the prevention of accidents at work and occupational illnesses (INRS).




The aim of the IRSN's Scientific Council is to promote the Institute's scientific excellence by issuing opinions on its programs and assessing its performance. It can formulate recommendations about the orientation of the establishment's activities. Its opinions and recommendations are submitted to the board of directors and the supervising ministers.




Find out more about the Scientific Council

Official notice of appointment, December 2014 (in French)




The 6th issue of Aktis, IRSN’s scientific newsletter, is available 


Aktis_EN-6.jpg The sixth English-language issue of Aktis, the quarterly newsletter on IRSN’s research, is available on a HTML and PDF package. Aktis is published only in a digital version and available in HTML or text format for e-mail, RSS and a pageflip PDF.




In this issue, focus on new methods for the treatment of radiological burns.; it also talks about exposure to radon in certain homes and about studying the explosion of hydrogen and dust mixtures.




The subscription for the English and French versions is complimentary. To read this issue or subscribe, go to


To read the pageflip PDF




Scientific collaborationsRIO5, a new international working group on marine radioactivity
At the instigation of a group of international experts led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution*, a new working group (WG) - Radioactivity in the Ocean: 5 Decades Later (RIO5) - has been created with the aim of studying the radioactivity of oceans, in depth and on a global scale. Unique in its scope, RIO5 emerged from meetings between several experts from major bodies - including the IAEA, Fukushima University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the IRSN, which represents France within the group - following the questions that were raised after the Fukushima accident concerning the extent of oceanic contamination. In addition to these questions, which were raised both by scientists and the general public, the Fukushima accident prompted renewed interest in observing marine radioactivity on a global scale, an effort that had been dormant for several years, and highlighted the clear need to create RIO5.

The members of RIO5 want to conduct an exhaustive assessment of current knowledge on marine radioactivity by bringing together the capabilities of radiochemists and radioecologists from around the globe. The ultimate objective is to improve the knowledge and understanding of all audiences (scientists, students, the general public, etc.) about the presence and fate of natural and artificial radionuclides in marine systems (oceans and inland seas), as well as to train the next generation of marine radioactivity specialists.

The RIO5 WG joins existing bodies at a European level, such as research platforms and the OSPAR Commission (concerned with protection of the marine environment in the Northeast Atlantic), by bringing a global dimension to marine radioactivity research. The WG is comprised of ten permanent members and eight associate members, some of whom also take part in European platforms and the OSPAR Commission. RIO5 was formed as part of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the main international nongovernmental organization that promotes and coordinates ocean-related research activities.

RIO5 aims to implement six main actions, in which the IRSN takes part together with all of the other members:
  • Compile as much data as possible about the distribution in all marine environments of natural and artificial radionuclides in the existing database Maris (IAEA portal), which can be accessed online both by the scientific community and the general public;
  • Summarize and publish synthesis papers on this set of data to help improve knowledge about oceanic processes and thereby achieve a better understanding of what happens to contaminants in oceanic environments;
  • Identify the shortcomings in scientific knowledge about radioactivity in the marine environment;
  • Bring together academic parties, companies in the nuclear industry, and national analysis laboratories at an international symposium on radionuclides in the oceans;
  • Provide a set of educational tools to educate and train the next generation of radiochemists and radioecologists, as well as to aid the understanding of marine radioactivity starting from primary school classes;
  • Develop web tools to advance the general public's understanding of radioactivity in the oceans.

The IRSN will take part in each of these actions by regularly interacting with each of the members and helping to organize a RIO5 international conference during the group's third year of existence.

* The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, nonprofit research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers. Established in 1930, it is the largest independent oceanographic research institution in the U.S.