IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety

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Mithygene project: further mitigating the risk of hydrogen explosion in the event of a nuclear reactor core meltdown

IRSN is conducting research to improve its understanding of phenomena governing the hydrogen explosion risk during a severe accident at a nuclear reactor and to develop tools to assess this risk. Drawing on its experience and working with academic, institutional and industrial partners, IRSN is leading a new research project codenamed Mithygene.

During a severe accident at a nuclear reactor, the oxidation of metals in the core undergoing meltdown leads to the production of large quantities of hydrogen, which may explode in the reactor containment building and jeopardize its integrity. With a budget of nearly 6 million euros over five years, in part supported by ANR (French National Agency for Research.), the Mithygene project is being carried out by IRSN, the CEA, the ICARE Institute - Laboratory belonging to the French National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS - and various industrial - primarily EDF, Air Liquide and Areva - and academic partners, including the Jülich Research Institute of Germany.

The first stage of the project seeks to improve the tools used to assess the risk of a hydrogen explosion and in particular to develop prototype instrumentation techniques designed to measure the gases released during a severe accident. During the second stage, knowledge acquired from analysis of the accidents at Fukushima will be used to prepare for industrializing the prototype to measure the gas concentrations.

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