IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Research units

Nuclear Safety unit

Safety research is closely linked to the Institute’s expert appraisal activities: it covers all of the factors (physical phenomena, equipment, measures, etc.) that contribute to the safety of nuclear facilities, with the objective of better evaluating the risks and improving the safety level of these installations. Several types of nuclear facilities exist: electricity generation reactors either in operation or being constructed such as the EPR (European pressurised reactor), experimental reactors such as the Jules Horowitz reactor currently being built on the Cadarache site, fuel reprocessing plants such as La Hague and hot laboratories, without forgetting transport of nuclear materials.




The Institute’s main areas of research into safety are focused on two major aspects reflecting the logic of defence in depth, which is the very basis of nuclear safety:

  • The first main area of research concerns the prevention of accidents: this involves averting potential operating anomalies and system failures in order to ensure the facility keeps within its authorised range of operation.
  • The second main area of research concerns the limitation of the consequences of accidents: this involves better understanding the phenomenology of possible accident scenarios, including accidents involving meltdown of the reactor core, verifying the ability of safety systems to manage such accidents and – still in a logic of defence in depth – defining the measures that need to be put in place to limit their consequences and protect the public in the event of failure of these systems. 


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