IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Scientific collaboration

The NEEDS challenge

In April 2012, the CNRS’s Interdisciplinary Mission launched a  multi- and interdisciplinary nuclear programme known as NEEDS (a French acronym which translates “nuclear: energy, environment, waste, society”). It has two main objectives: ensure research done in the nuclear field by academia, industry and IRSN, is more visible ; integrate the human and social sciences in this research so that man and society are included in scientific discussions and study the relationship between society, nature and nuclear technology.


Programme operation


NEEDS is intended to last five years with an option for renewal. It picks up from PACEN, a multi-organisation programme that researches the back end of the fuel cycle and nuclear energy, bringing together nuclear research performed at CNRS in which IRSN participated in the context of TRASSE, the national research group on the transfer of radionuclides in the soil, subsoil and ecosystems.


Seven partners are involved: CNRS, CEA, EDF, ANDRA, AREVA, IRSN and the French Geological Survey (BRGM). The programme is supervised by a consultation committee that includes the NEEDS director, who is named by the CNRS, and partner representatives. The director relies on the decisions of the Scientific Council, where François Besnus, IRSN’s director for waste and the geosphere, represents the IRSN. IRSN scientific director, Giovanni Bruna, participates as an expert on nuclear research issues.


The NEEDS programme includes seven joint projects co-funded by the various partners each year. Each joint project includes a joint project council, a project management team that includes a director who represents the CNRS and a director representing one of the partners, and a scientific council. The IRSN is involved in four of these seven joint projects and co-directs the project on the environment.


Detail on joint projects


The seven joint projects are:

  • Impact of nuclear activities on the environment, co-funded by CNRS, IRSN, EDF and Andra. Its goal is to improve knowledge of the environmental consequences related to the presence or to releases of radioactive substances and chemical toxins that are part of the activities of the nuclear fuel cycle (from former mining sites to waste repositories). It is co-supervised by IRSN and CNRS and involves the Environment Unit, whose six of the laboratories take part to some of the fourteen projects selected in 2013: L2BT, LAME, LETIS, LERCM, BRN and LMRE.
  • Nuclear systems and scenarios, co-funded by CNRS, CEA, AREVA, IRSN and EDF. It supports studies and research on all aspects of innovative reactors (core, energy conversion, safety), and on particular nuclear data, reactor physics, simulation tools, innovative instrumentation and nuclear scenarios. It implies the IRSN's Nuclear safety unit whose two laboratories are involved: LNC and LNR. In 2013, 24 projects were selected.
  • Radioactive waste treatment and conditioning, co-funded by CNRS, CEA, AREVA, IRSN, EDF and Andra. Its goal is to develop innovative methods for characterising primary waste and waste packages and innovative processes for treating and conditioning radioactive waste. Seven projects were selected in 2013.
  • Nuclear Energy, risks and society, co-funded by CNRS, CEA, Andra and IRSN. The aim of this joint project is to appreciate the importance of the human and social sciences in understanding nuclear energy as a social reality and global phenomenon; form new research teams; support innovative research; encourage approaches that take advantage of potential critiques from the human and social sciences, and the exploration of subjects and fields that go beyond applied research approaches; and, lastly, take into account the controversial character of knowledge and decisions in this field and respect the diversity of researcher positions. Six projects were selected for 2013.
  • Behaviour of disposal materials (MIPOR) at various scales, co-funded by CNRS, CEA, IRSN, EDF, Andra and BRGM. Its goal is to improve knowledge of natural and anthropogenic porous materials (argillite, concrete, barriers and smectite clay plugs, etc.) that may come into contact or be affected by water, thermal, mechanical or chemical disturbances during radioactive waste disposal. The Environment Unit's LETIS is involved in this joint project that brings together 17 projects for 2013.
  • Resources: mines, processes, economy, co-funded by CNRS, CEA and Areva. It brings together the fields of prospection and mine handling and the socioeconomics involved in exploiting and using uranium and thorium resources. Its goal is to develop basic approaches for uranium and thorium geology, physical chemistry of uranium and thorium, and prospection and socioeconomic studies. Nine projects were selected in 2013.
  • Materials for nuclear energy, co-funded by CNRS, CEA, AREVA and EDF. Its challenge is to increase the knowledge of materials for nuclear energy used in extreme conditions (temperature, irradiation, length of time), from the point of view of manufacture and preparation, microstructure description, measurements of properties, compatibility with the environment and behaviour when irradiated. Sixteen projects were selected for 2013.

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Dates: 2012-2017 (renewable)

Funding: €2.5 million/year

Partners: CNRS, CEA, IRSN, Andra, AREVA, EDF and BRGM

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