After a general overview of the technological irradiation reactors existing in Europe, this document details the safety approach adopted for a new research reactor to be constructed in France and the main recommendations resulting from IRSN assessment.
The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) implemented a new project of pool type reactor called “Jules HOROWITZ reactor” (RJH). Its construction is planned on the Cadarache site with an operational start by 2013. In 2002, the CEA transmitted an application to the General Directorate for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection with regard to the safety options selected for this project.
The CEA, designer of new nuclear plants, stated its intention to obtain an increased safety level.
Search for improvements should be an ongoing concern with regard to safety. For existing plants, improvements are implemented in accordance with a pragmatic method, considering the design limitations, during scheduled safety reviews. For new plants, a significant safety improvement is required at design stage.
This significant step, at design stage, is possible in an “evolutionary” roadmap if the necessary attention is paid to the lessons learnt from the operating experience, the in-depth studies conducted for existing plants, and the results of safety researches. However, the introduction of innovating provisions should also be considered, in particular for preventing and controlling major accidents.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the strong points, as safety improvements, resulting either from options deliberately selected by the CEA, or from recommendations resulting from IRSN assessment, presented to expert groups, then notified by the relevant Safety Authorities.
This paper will especially deal with the case of the “Jules HOROWITZ reactor”, the only planned research reactor in France in the past 20 years.