Used in various facilities in the nuclear fuel cycle, a glovebox is sensitive equipment. A fire can result in the loss of containment and the release of radioactive material into the environment. This is why IRSN has launched in 2013 a research program now supported by Japan.
Gloveboxes – leaktight structures that allow certain nuclear materials such as plutonium oxide (PuO2) to be handled without loss of containment – are used in various nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Given the serious implications of a release of plutonium into the environment, IRSN decided in 2013 to launch a research program to reduce uncertainty about estimations of the levels of PuO2 that would be dispersed in the event of a glovebox fire.
So far, the results obtained for the fire intensity characterization show that glovebox fires can reach very high intensity level. They also shows that compared to fires in open spaces, combustion is less intense in confined environments and lasts for a long time without necessarily using up all of the combustible material.
The large-scale tests that validated the numerical models were carried out in GALAXIE, IRSN’s experimental platform used to conduct research work on fire hazards in nuclear facilities. The content of the research program, which will last until the end of 2023, and the first results were shared with the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority NRA, who has decided to finance the next stages.