IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Research units

Fire Experimentation Laboratory (LEF)


The Fire Experimentation Laboratory (LEF) is located at Cadarache center in south of France. It is headed by Laurent Audouin.






Context and research themes


The main task of the LEF is to achieve experimental programmes whose output can be used to develop and validate IRSN computer codes. The experiments performed implement know-how and activities in the following areas:

  • Physics of fires in confined and ventilated environments (thermal properties of fires, propagation of fires, fumes, gases, etc.) 
  • Control of medium and large-scale experiments (buildings, technical rooms, etc.) 
  • Control of specific instrumentation (temperature, heat flux, gas and soot concentration, pressure, flow rate, etc.) 
  • Design of experimental systems to study fires 
  • Expertise in the conduction of experimental programmes



Specialties and researchers


Laurent Audouin, head of laboratory

Guillaume Basso, technician

Gil Boioli, engineer

Olivier Bouygues, technician

Arnaud Brunner, research engineer

Stéphane Charbaut, technician

Mickaël Coutin, engineer

Vincent Cozar, technician

Michel Dauphin, technician

Serge Engani, engineer

Amine Koched

Vincent Lecocq, technician

William Le Saux, engineer

Thibault Mondière, technician

Lucie Montagne, engineer

Marc Piller, engineer

Serge Pons, technician

Hugues Prétrel, engineer

Jean-Pascal Raymond, engineer

Florent-Frédéric Vigroux, technician

Pascal Zavaleta, engineer



Facilities and techniques


The test facilities (referred to as "Galaxie" facilities) are located in Cadarache and were created for studies on sodium fires. They consist of different types of containments (four steel tanks and three concrete chambers) with volumes ranging from 316 litres to 3600 m3. Most of these facilities are equipped with an experimental ventilation system. Their main characteristics are shown in the table below. The various sizes and shapes allow for studying different types and magnitudes of fires in multiple configurations. The Pluton, Jupiter and Saturne facilities (400, 3600 and 2000 m3, respectively) are unmatched throughout the world in terms of size and capacity. The Jupiter compartment currently houses the Diva facility dedicated to the study of fires in multiple rooms.


Pluton facility

This facility consists of a leaktight reinforced concrete containment (400 m3) and a high-capacity industrial ventilation system (18000 m3/h max.) (see Figure 1). Its resistance to gas pressures (-25 to 250 hPa) and its instrumentation (450 measuring channels) allow for experiments on fires of significant intensity (up to approximately 5 MW) and in various ventilation configurations.


Saturne facility and hood

This facility is intended to study the open-air combustion of medium-scale fire (for example, an electrical cabinet fire). It consists of a hood and a system to measure and filter the gases produced by fires. Its instrumentation allows for determining the instantaneous power of the fire. The capacities of the hood and the associated ventilation system (maximum flow rate: 20000 m3/h) allow for studying fire with power intensities of up to 1 MW.


Diva facility (Fire, ventilation and airborne contamination test facility)

This facility is specifically dedicated to conducting tests on fires in multiple, confined, ventilated rooms. It consists of three 120 m3 rooms, a 150 m3 corridor, a 170 m3 room in the floor above, and several ventilation systems. It is equipped with extensive instrumentation (up to 800 measuring channels are possible) and its ventilation systems allow for the study of representative configurations (laboratories, plants, PWRs). Its reinforced concrete structure and its equipment are designed to withstand gas pressures ranging from -100 to 520 hPa. Leaks between rooms can be adjusted, as well as ventilation configurations.


In addition, the Carinea facility (hood currently being installed) will enable the characterisation of materials or low-power fire (< 200 kW) as a supplement to the Saturne hood. The largest of these facilities are described in detail below.


Extensive instrumentation is used, allowing up to 800 measuring channels per experiment. The purpose of this instrumentation is to acquire data so as to interpret phenomena and establish a solid qualification file for calculation codes with a view to developing reliable industrial applications. The data recorded includes, non-exhaustively, the temporal evolutions of the fuel (loss of mass, combustion products, soot, etc.), room (temperatures, pressure, species concentrations, heat flux on walls) and ventilation (flow rates and temperatures in pipes, pressure at nodes). Video recordings are taken of the fire and can be exploited using an image analysis system to study the flame structure and its evolution with time. Thermographic recordings are also taken when technically possible and can be used to obtain temperature measurements (for example, to determine the temperature field on the wall of an electrical cabinet on fire).


Table 1: General characteristics of the experimental Galaxie facilities





Geometry and type 

Containment and resistance to overpressure 

 Number of measuring channels


 0.316 m3

 Steel tank

 Leaktight or ventilated



 4.4 m3

 Steel tank

 Leaktight (3 bar) or ventilated



 4.5 m3

 Steel tank(large height)

 Leaktight (7 bar) or ventilated



 22 m3

 Steel tank

 Leaktight (3 bar)
or ventilated



 400 m3

 Concrete compartment

 Leaktight (0.25 bar)
or ventilated

 ~450 used out of a possible 520

Saturne equipped with a hood)

 2000 m3

 Concrete compartment

 Natural ventilation


Diva (in Jupiter)

 3600 m3

 Concrete compartment

 Leaktight (1 bar)
or ventilated

 ~600 used out of a possible 800


* : The Pollux facility is not currently operational.

Send Print
Fire test at the LEF. This image was priced by the International Association for Siences on the safety of fire


Fire Experimentation Laboratory
BP 3
13115 Saint Paul Lez Durance cedex
By phone: +33 (0)4 42 19 92 20


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