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Nuclear energy

Published on 12 December 2016

​The CEA provides the public authorities and the industry with the expertise and innovation needed to develop improved nuclear power generation systems.​

The CEA is behind the development of the French nuclear industry: together with EDF, they designed the first generation of reactors in the French fleet and most of the industrial-scale processes currently used in Areva's nuclear fuel cycle plants.​  

The CEA ​is responsible for research and innovation programmes in two key areas: supporting the French nuclear industry, and developing the future nuclear systems called Generation IV. The CEA is also still investigating thermonuclear fusion, in particular via the international project called ITER which involves building the first prototype in the next decade designed to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of this source of energy. Thanks to its long-standing activities in the nuclear field, the CEA has also built up expertise in nuclear radiobiology and toxicology. Such knowledge means that the CEA has the resources to accurately investigate the impact of nuclear activities on mankind and the environment.

CEA research
on nuclear energy

optimisation of the current nuclear industry

Optimisation of
the current nuclear industry

The CEA devotes a great deal of energy to research programmes to meet the needs of its industrial partners. This research focuses on reactors in the French fleet and covers issues such as service life, performance, availability and nuclear safety. Optimising the fuel cycle facilities is also an area of concern.

Future reactors (Generation IV)

Future reactors (Generation IV)

The CEA is responsible on behalf of France for leading research on innovative nuclear systems - called Generation IV - which integrate major technological breakthroughs compared with the previous generation of reactors. It is mainly focusing its attention on sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFR), and on gas-cooled fast reactors (GFR) to a lesser extent. The CEA is the contracting authority of the Astrid project - an Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration - currently in its conceptual design phase.

Nuclear fuel cycle

fuel cycle

France chose to follow a policy wherein spent fuel is reprocessed and recycled. This strategy will reach its full potential with the fourth generation of reactors. Having developed the majority of the processes currently used by Areva at La Hague plant, the CEA is still continuing its research to improve, expand and adapt the technologies so it can rise to future challenges. It is therefore preparing the future nuclear fuel cycles in line with the development of Generation IV nuclear systems.

Safety of nuclear facilities

Safety of
nuclear facilities

The CEA is strongly committed to ensuring the highest levels of nuclear safety, whether as an operator of nuclear facilities or as a research organisation. The studies it leads in the field are not only supported by IRSN, but also French (EDF, Areva) and foreign nuclear operators. These studies fall within a long-term approach of continuous progress.

Materials for the nuclear industry

Materials for
the nuclear industry

High temperatures, irradiation, mechanical stresses, and corrosive environments: the materials used in nuclear power plants are subjected to extreme conditions. Guaranteeing the nuclear safety, service life and performance levels of current reactors, while designing and qualifying materials capable of resisting the specific constraints of future nuclear systems, are the main issues investigated at the CEA in the field of nuclear materials.

Jules Horowitz research reactor

Jules Horowitz
research reactor

The Jules Horowitz reactor (JHR) project led by the CEA will provide the means needed to explore an essential scientific and technical field: testing the behaviour of materials and fuels under irradiation in order to support current and future nuclear reactors. The JHR is currently under construction at the CEA Cadarache site. Once commissioned, this unique experimental irradiation tool in Europe will not only be available to the nuclear industry and research organisations, but also to nuclear safety authorities and their support units. It will also be used to produce radioelements needed in both nuclear medicine and the non-nuclear industry.



As a nuclear operator, the CEA is responsible for dismantling its nuclear facilities and managing the waste resulting from such activities. It is also a key player in research on techniques and technologies used in such dismantling operations.

Radioactive waste management

waste management

The management of radioactive waste in France is covered under the Act dated 28 June 2006. The CEA is involved on two fronts: as a nuclear operator, it is responsible for managing the waste it generates, and as an R&D player, it leads research on the treatment, conditioning and long-term behaviour of waste.

Thermonuclear fusion

Thermonuclear fusion

The CEA is one of the leading European research organisations in magnetic confinement fusion. It actively contributes to the international roadmap for research in this field. The international project called ITER is at the centre of this research, which brings together the European Union, Russia, the US, Japan, China, South Korea and India. Under construction at Cadarache, this tokamak is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of using thermonuclear fusion to generate power.

Radiobiology and radiation protection

Radiobiology and
radiation protection

Thanks to its long-standing activities in the nuclear field, the CEA has built up expertise in nuclear radiobiology and toxicology. Such knowledge means that the CEA has the resources to accurately investigate the impact of nuclear activities on mankind and the environment.

Thematic website

Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM)

The IRFM is located in the CEA Cadarache Centre, in the south of France. The institute works on a new  source of energy: the magnetic confinement fusion.